Is PVC piping dangerous?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 20,402
    Michael Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice discusses why PVC piping is dangerous.

    Host: Is PVC piping dangerous?

    Michael Schade: Now the health and environmental concerns associated with PVC piping are literally, primarily in the production and disposal phase. Our biggest concerns is when they are manufactured or when they are disposed off in Fenceline communities. There are some consumer exposure concerns associated with PVC piping. But they are minimal compared to other PVC plastic products. Piping is not the one that they we are most concerned about in terms of consumer exposure to toxic chemicals from the vinyl product.

    However, there have been studies that are being done. That show that Vinyl piping over time can leach potentially harmful chemicals into the water. Especially, older piping, older PVC plastic piping that was manufactured prior to I think the mid 1970's has been found to leach certain harmful chemicals such as Vinyl Chloride and lead. Most piping that we use today is manufactured after that. So most piping is not a cause for concern in relation to those chemicals.

    However, the piping that we use today, the vinyl piping does contain another class of chemicals that we are concerned about called Organotins. Organotins are metal stabilizers that are used to make the plastic strong and wouldn't degrade and these chemicals are also dangerous. They have been linked to a number of different types of health problems and they have been shown to leach out at relatively low levels of exposure so it's probably pretty likely that exposure, when you drink water and that goes through a PVC pipe. You are not going to get sick immediately, but we don't know what the prolonged exposure will be overtime. You know as we are constantly drinking water for decades out of PVC piping and there are low levels of these chemicals we don't really know what the long-term effects may be.

    In laboratory studies, prolonged exposure to certain levels of these chemicals has been shown to be harmful. The good news is that when consumers are remodeling, there are safer options that are out there. PVC piping is really not the only option when you are using vinyl piping. So for instance, you can use another safer plastic called High Density PolyEthylene (HDPE), which is another widely used plastic piping material that's pretty ready available and is cost competitive and performs just as well. There are other, also traditional metal types of piping thats available such as cast iron, for example. So there are safer alternatives out there to PVC piping and because of the health and environmental concerns, there has been a number of cities across the country that have placed restrictions on PVC piping. For instance, in New York city there is restrictions on PVC piping due to the health and environmental concerns.