New Report Looks At The Adverse Health And Safety Impacts Of Plastic PVC Pipes

Center for Environmental Health Publishes “Our Health, PVC, and Critical Infrastructure”

Oakland, CA – The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) today released a new report examining the impact of plastic PVC pipes on human health and the environment.

“Our Health, PVC, and Critical Infrastructure” looks at the harmful chemicals that are used to make PVC, the costs associated with using these pipes in municipal projects, and the health and safety hazards due to PVC exposure. The paper also discusses the machinations by the PVC lobby to coerce governments into using PVC pipes in projects.

“As our nation grapples with how to upgrade and replace critical infrastructure, we must ensure that we use materials that will not harm our health and safety and will not adversely affect the environment,” said Dr. Michael K. Dorsey, supervisory author of the paper and Board Member of the Center for Environmental Health. “We have a responsibility to protect the environment. As more and more consumers demand less plastic in their daily lives, we should examine how much plastic is around us in ways we don’t readily notice. We know that we must update millions of miles of water and sewer pipes that are buried underground to create modern systems and make repairs. But in doing so we must be responsible in our choice of materials so that where we live does not risk our health.

“The plastics industry has found itself in the sights of municipal and community leaders who, having successfully sent plastic bags packing, are now aiming at straws and other single-use plastics. The more we learn about the volatile chemicals that go into plastics and how difficult it is to recycle them for other uses, the more we want to steer clear of them. This new report will inform government officials about the dangers of using PVC pipes in drinking- and stormwater systems.”

PVC is made from toxic chemicals. Among the three core chemicals involved in its production process, chlorine gas is converted into a substance (ethylene dichloride) the Environmental Protection Agency lists as a “probable carcinogen,” which is in turn, converted into vinyl chloride. This is the primary building block of polyvinyl chloride — otherwise known as PVC. The Center for Environmental Health report notes that since vinyl chloride was first listed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a carcinogen in 1980, “numerous studies have continued to provide strong evidence that exposure to vinyl chloride increases the risk of a rare form of liver cancer in humans.”

PVC pipes can be cheaper to install than other pipe materials, and many government agencies have purchased PVC to save money in the short-term. However, the long-term costs of plastic pipes can be more expensive as the years pass. The report mentions the community of Fountaingrove, CA, which survived a 2018 wildfire in Sonoma County. But when residents returned home, they found their drinking water supply contaminated with benzene as a result of plastic PVC pipes melting from the fire’s heat with estimates approaching $43 million to repair and make the water clean again for use.

“For CEH, the bottom line is, there is no way to safely manufacture, use, or dispose of PVC products,” the report states. “Still few people blink when their local leaders announce that plastic pipes will carry drinking water to their homes, schools, libraries, shopping centers and businesses. The true value of water pipelines must include more than just the purchase and installation cost. … Life-cycle analyses show that over the duration of PVC pipe use and disposal, the costs run considerably higher than its initial purchase.”

Ultimately, CEH hopes that policy makers at all levels will take a lifecycle approach to major water infrastructure upgrades and work to phase out the use of toxic PVC products in their water systems.

The complete report “Our Health, PVC, and Critical Infrastructure” can be found here.

SOURCE: Center for Environmental Health

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