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.

     There's been a lot of negative talk in the media and online lately about the effects of PVC in consumer products. Don't confuse the added-to plastic found in those products with "furniture" and "plumbing" grades PVC pipe and fittings. They are not the same thing.

     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 with these plasticizers, not the PVC itself. 

     Phthalates and Bisphenol-A are not added to common PVC pipe. 

     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.

     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. Also, since PVC is a thermoplastic material it can be recycled.

     So, in a nutshell, I believe working with PVC is not harmful when exercising common sense. But that's me. 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... if you think that PVC is not safe, do not work with it.

Brooks Owen, Proprietor


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