What’s In Your Vinyl Collection?
While commonly found in new home construction, PVC (vinyl) presents some challenges when it comes to life cycle material toxicity. You’ve likely heard of these products or have them in your home right now: Vinyl Siding, PVC Windows, PVC Plumbing Pipes, Vinyl Plank Flooring.
PVC’s manufacturing process requires a carcinogenic material, vinyl chloride monomer, and releases dioxins during manufacture and accidental burning. Dangerous additives can also migrate out during normal use and accumulate in household dust. While the use of stabilizers and plasticizers including lead, cadmium and phthalates have been reduced in recent years, they may still find their way into new PVC stock via the inclusion of older recycled vinyl products.
“While improved by excluding problematic additives, these reformulations have not – and cannot – address the lifecycle hazards tied to PVC’s intrinsic chlorinated chemistry.” – Perkins + Will Architects
As an example of how dangerous these materials are, just 91.7 grams of dioxins (an amount I could hold in one hand, and was actually released into the environment by the industry in 2013) is enough to pollute 25 billion litres of drinking water DAILY. And here’s a warning from the International Association of Fire Fighters:
“Exposure to a single PVC fire can cause permanent respiratory disease… Due to its intrinsic hazards, we support efforts to identify and use alternative building materials that do not pose as much risk as PVC to fire fighters, building occupants or communities.” -Richard M Duffy, IAFF
Wellness: you have options
The Perkins + Will white paper (PDF download) recommends a “Precautionary” approach when considering PVC building products. That is, if competent evidence suggests adverse human or environmental effects associated with certain substances, architects have a duty to advise their clients about alternatives.
What else can I use?
- Windows: wood, aluminum or fibreglass.
- Vinyl plank flooring: wood, cork or linoleum.
- Plumbing pipes: copper or PEX.
When it comes to healthy home design, Bloom Architecture makes your well-being our primary concern. As your trusted advisors, we’re committed to asking the right questions, researching alternatives, and presenting solutions that meet your longevity goals.
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