Effect of PVC on Imaging Materials

Mizen_Effect of PVC on Imaging Materials_20130604_Page_01The use of PVC or vinyl was discussed at the Spring 2013 ISO meeting on image permanence and durability that was held in Copenhagen. Because vinyl is convenient and economical, manufacturers would like to use this material for photo books and other products. Currently, ISO standards prohibit this material, and in the interest of providing a complete understanding of the situation, I prepared a review of the technical literature on PVC.

What I found was quite disturbing. PVC is inherently less stable than other materials. In addition, it tends to release plasticizers over time, which damage materials that are in contact with it. There is no such thing as photosafe PVC.

I recommended that the current prohibition against PVC use remain in place and that recommendation was accepted; however, manufacturers have been given one year to demonstrate the safety of PVC for archival preservation.

What does this mean? Current standards prohibiting the use of PVC are voluntary. Consequently, we must be alert for products that may damage photos and destroy memories. If a product is not clearly labelled PVC-free or vinyl-free, contact the manufacturer and ask them if their products contain PVC or vinyl. If the manufacturer won’t tell you or doesn’t know, select another product.

PVC was responsible for one of the great photographic disasters, with harmful “magnetic” pages destroying many photos. We need to prevent a repeat of this disaster, and we can only do so by being informed about the products we use.

For my complete presentation see Effect of PVC on Imaging Materials.


About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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7 Responses to Effect of PVC on Imaging Materials

  1. Lynn Porter says:

    As always, thank you Dr. Mark for always looking out for us. It’s always appreciated!!

  2. Laura Maguire says:

    Amen to that! I had magnetic albums and witnessed their effect.

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  6. neil says:

    “PVC was responsible for one of the great photographic disasters, with harmful magnetic pages destroying many photos.” unnamed disaster = no disaster. Also, PVC is NOT a magnetic material, and magnetic fields don’t damage photographic prints anyway(images on your hard drive tho, that’s different). PVC is rather a bad choice, but not for those reasons.

    • Mark Mizen says:

      I recognize that PVC is not actually magnetic; however, the press-and-stick pages with a PVC cover sheet were frequently referred to and sold as “magnetic” album pages.

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