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April 19, 2018

Are PVC Roofing Systems Safe? Debunking Decades of Myths

It’s been proven over the last 35 years through numerous studies by the EPA, FDA and 26 full-scale life cycle analyses of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) roofing that it’s safe for humans with minimal environmental impact. However, a few naysayers hang on to old myths that were predominantly promoted by environmental groups that called PVC the “poison plastic” due to concerns about material compounds like dioxin, vinyl chloride and phthalates. Let’s debunk a few of these myths about what is now the world’s third most widely made synthetic plastic polymer.

pvc safe handling
PVC Roofing Systems Have a Decades-Long History of Safe Handling

Dioxin and PVC

While dioxins are confirmed carcinogens, studies by the Vinyl Institute and the EPA indicate that the production of PVC materials only account for about .5% of total dioxin emissions. This is a far cry from the 60% of dioxin emissions that result from medical and municipal incinerations and metal smelting. Furthermore, research conducted in communities close to PVC production plants showed no indications of higher incidents of cancer or liver problems compared to national averages.

The Negative Reputation of Vinyl Chloride

Indeed, long-term inhalation or oral exposure to vinyl chloride can result in cancer and liver damage. However, as early as 1997 the CDC issued a report stating that the PVC industry had made huge strides toward nearly completely eliminating workers exposure that surfaced these health concerns. When it comes to consumer safety, a report issued by the US Green Building Council’s Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee (TSAC) found (after a five-year study) that PVC is as benign as other construction products, and in some cases, is the best environmental option.

The Truth About Phthalates

Phthalates or phthalenes are a plasticizer material utilized to create flexible PVC materials, including roofing membranes. This substance has been claimed for years to be a danger to human health and the environment. As with any material irresponsibly used or disposed of, phthalates can be harmful with frequent inhalant exposure. However, extensive research by numerous government agencies concerning their long-term impact indicates that phthalates have a very minimal effect on both humans and the planet. Three key findings of these organizations include:

  1. Phthalates quickly biodegrade in soil or water and are not persistent.
  2. The types of phthalates utilized in PVC roofing materials are not water soluble, hence they cannot be bio-assimilated.
  3. Living organisms don’t accrue phthalates, but actually promote their breakdown and elimination.

As you can see, PVC roofing is a sustainable, safe and environmentally sound choice. Therefore, conscious consumers can invest in residential or commercial PVC roofing systems with complete confidence.