Is PVC Safe?

First thing. I'm not a scientist, environmentalist, engineer or anyone who's all that smart. I'm just a guy who's made stuff with PVC pipe for 30+ years.

     You can read pros and cons about PVC most anywhere. Some articles are serious and thoughtful, while others border on the hysterical and absurd. But everything I've read indicates to me that working with common PVC pipe can be as safe as working with other kinds of craft and building-type materials. Nothing has convinced me otherwise.

     In many plastic products a couple of additives, called plasticizers, may have been added that make PVC change properties.

1. Phthalates are chemical substances that make PVC flexible and soft. These additives are used in products like toys, baby products, cosmetics, food wrapping materials, shower curtains and so on.

2. Bisphenol-A is used to make products shatter resistant and for high-heat resistance. You may find this additive in such items as baby bottles, eating utensils, microwave ware, water bottles and the like. 

     Both these chemical additives are suspected by some to cause cancer and, possibly, developmental problems. The concern is seemingly with these plasticizers, not the PVC itself.

     Scientific reports are mixed on the safety of those two additives. If you're interested, you can read more about it online. Also, you can read how PVC is made here.

     As I understand it, the above mentioned additives found in many products are not added to "furniture" and "plumbing" grade PVC pipe and fittings.

     According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, vinyl manufacturing accounts for a tiny percentage of U.S. dioxin emissions. More is generated by forest fires, backyard trash burning and internal combustion engines.

     So, in a nutshell, I believe working with PVC is not harmful when exercising common sense. But that's me. I've worked with it safely for over three decades. You'll have to form your own opinion and work with PVC only on your own volition. If interested, you should keep reading on this topic and make up your own mind.

     Bottom line... until you're sure PVC is safe, do not work with it. Ultimately, safety and health issues are your responsibility.

Brooks Owen, Proprietor


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