PVC Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The following are frequently asked questions about PVC and how it can contaminate the environment. If you or a loved one has suffered due to PVC contamination, you can recieve a free lawsuit case evaluation by filling out this simple form.
• What is PVC?
• What are the uses of PVC?
• Why is PVC a problem?
• How is PVC used in buildings?
• Are there any examples of efforts to reduce or eliminate PVC usage in buildings?
What is PVC?
PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and is also known as “vinyl”. It is a synthetic polymer material (or resin), formed by combining ethylene (derived from petroleum, natural gas, or coal) and chlorine. The resulting compound, ethylene dichloride (EDC) is catalyzed to form a gas called vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). Polymerization of the VCM results in the white powder or resin known as PVC or vinyl. Chemical additives are mixed with the PVC to give it different characteristics such as flexibility, resilience, or fire resistance. (HDR, not dated). The chlorine in PVC represents 57% of the weight of the pure polymer resin (Commission of the European Communities, 2000).
What are the uses of PVC?
PVC is commonly used in building construction, interior furnishings, packaging, office supplies, electronics and appliances, medical equipment, and vehicle parts. This fact sheet focuses on the use of PVC in building construction.
Why is PVC a problem?
The manufacture, use, and disposal of PVC poses substantial and unique environmental and human health hazards due to the formation and release of hazardous organochlorine by-products (Thornton, 2002). During the manufacture of PVC, dioxin and other persistent pollutants are created as by-products. During use, PVC products can leach potentially harmful additives like phthalate plasticizers and lead or other heavy metal stabilizers. Dioxins and other by-products are emitted when PVC is burned during incineration or in accidental fires in buildings, warehouses, or landfills. Because no significant markets exist for the recycling of PVC, the material will typically be landfilled, where additives can leach out. (Commission of the European Communities, 2000; Healthy Building Network, 2002) More information regarding the hazards of dioxins can be found in the Screening Evaluation of Dioxins Pollution Prevention Options, a report commissioned by the Association of Bay Area Governments Dioxins Task Force (TDC Environmental, 2001).
How is PVC used in buildings?
Approximately 75% of all PVC produced is for building products (Healthy Building Network, 2002). Piping, vinyl siding, and vinyl flooring are the largest and most familiar uses of PVC. Roof membranes are another growing area. PVC is also used in electrical wire, conduit, carpet backing, windows, door frames, wall coverings, siding, furniture, shutters and blinds, gutters, downspouts, waterstops, flashing, moldings, and elsewhere.
The overriding reason for this popularity is PVC’s low manufacturing cost and adaptability to diverse applications. It is also mechanically tough, fairly weather resistant, water and chemicals resistant, and electrically insulating. Vinyl is the largest, and fastest growing, use of chlorine in the world, accounting for more than 40% of all chlorine use in the United States. In fact, it is the only major chlorine application still increasing in the world’s wealthy nations, and it is growing particularly rapidly in developing countries.
Are there any examples of efforts to reduce or eliminate PVC usage in buildings?
Yes. The use of PVC in major projects such as the United Kingdom-French Chunnel, the US EPA headquarters in Washington DC, and the 2000 Olympic Village in Sydney, Australia has been significantly reduced or completely eliminated. The US Navy, NASA, and the New York Subway are currently working on reduction of PVC in their projects.
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