I could no longer walk by my dining room table without staring down my vinyl tablecloth. I bought it because it was so easy to clean up and we get plenty of spills with two small children in the house. “Oh, you spilled your milk?” No problem! Vinyl made mealtime easy. After reading more about the darker side of polyvinyl chloride I felt like that cheerful pink and red tablecloth had lied to me. It didn’t tell me that the production of vinyl creates and releases one of the most toxic chemicals, dioxin, into the environment. It withheld the fact that chemical plasticisers, such as phthalates, are added to it to make it soft and flexible. It didn’t come with a label noting that phthalates can easily leach out of the vinyl or plastic to which they are attached. According to authors Smith and Lourie in Slow Death by Rubber Duck “In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been looking at the blood and urine levels of various pollutants in the bodies of Americans for almost ten years and have found a variety of phthalate products, or ‘metabolites,’ in virtually everyone tested.” But why should I care? These chemicals have been linked to phthalate syndrome in baby boys among other things. I won’t get into the details here, but the evidence is strong enough that companies have been pulling phthalates from products such as baby bottles and infant toys. With a head full of not-so-nice information about vinyl, I headed to the thrift store for a replacement. I found a nice cream linen tablecloth for $5. Yes, it will get spilled on and perhaps stained, but I can easily throw it into the washing machine. I also don’t have to wonder about mysterious toxins being released while my family sits down for dinner. Maybe we were all safe with our old tablecloth (which I put in the basement, not the trash, for future craft projects) but I’d like to err on the side of caution when it comes to the health of my kids. Besides, the new tablecloth compliments our antique table quite nicely.