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US report says vinyl’s impact is benign

By Steve Toloken, UT Akron BureauWASHINGTON DC-A long-awaited report on the environmental impact of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) concludes that vinyl is no worse than competing materials and should not be singled out as particularly bad for the environment.The report from the US Green Building Council, which reviewed 2500 studies of the environmental and human health impact of vinyl and other building materials, rejected calls by some in the building industry for a blanket statement against PVC.”The available evidence does not support a conclusion that PVC is consistently worse than alternative materials on a life cycle environmental and health basis,” Washington-based GBC wrote. “PVC does not emerge as a clear winner or loser.”Generally, reaction split along expected lines. Industry officials praised the report, which was put together by an expert panel appointed by GBC, while environmentalists predicted it would do little to help green-minded architects and builders.”Our preliminary sense is that the [GBC’s] task group took a comprehensive, scientific approach,” said Tim Burns, president of the Vinyl Institute, a trade group in Arlington, Virginia. “Whether it is the energy savings provided by vinyl windows or the resource conservation of durable products like pipe, siding and flooring, vinyl has a place in green buildings.”The head of the Healthy Building Network, an advocacy group that calls for phasing out vinyl, called it a “step in the wrong direction for the US GBC.”Bill Walsh, national coordinator at the Washington-based HBN, said the report is not transparent and is a departure from the council’s previous projects analysing materials.He questioned whether the report gave enough weight to pollution from cancer-causing vinyl chloride that, he claims, leaks into communities near vinyl plants. He added that the report should not be seen as a clean bill of health for vinyl, but only that existing evidence doesn’t say it is worse than other products. “It’s not going to help the green building movement figure out what is a green building material,” Walsh concluded.The 22 Dec report was being closely studied, and one observer said a negative rating for PVC could have had a strong impact on the market, with a result similar to how some consumers seek out food with an ‘organic’ label. GBC operates one of the most popular systems for rating the environmental performance of buildings.”

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