Edward Tufte would get a kick out of this. We passed an ICFF booth selling vinyl products and noticed a glossy brochure called green. Thinking this a stretch, we looked into the document which addresses Vinyl: Myth vs Reality. Myth 1: All production of vinyl is inherently bad for people and the environment. They acknowledge that three decades ago, workers were exposed to dangerous levels of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) but levels are now much lower, and "put the risk into perspective" on the same chart as fire, accidents and poisoning, not exactly a fair comparison. They also admit that dioxin is produced, but amounts have been reduced by 80% since 1987, and now household fireplaces account for more dioxin emissions than vinyl production. We note that many municipalities think that wood burning fireplaces are a problem for exactly that reason- two wrongs don't make a right.
Myth 2: Once Installed,Vinyl emits carcinogens and is therefore bad for the indoor environment.
They admit that when vinyl burns it gives off dioxins, and point out that if your house is burning down then a bit of dioxin is the least of your problems. However, a lot of PVC products and packaging are burned as garbage. They also admit that over long periods of time, phthalates "do indeed migrate (or are emitted) out of the vinyl matrix." They suggest that the carcinogenic risk is low. There are other concerns, but fortunately that new car smell only directly affects half the population-it is a gender bender that causes demasculinization, semen count drops and funny shaped penises. We note that the Phthalate Information Centre disagrees- They think it is fine for everyone.
Myth 3- After disposal, vinyl emits toxins and pollutes the environment
The suggest that PVC and vinyl is very stable and does not decompose. Some people would not consider this a virtue. They go on to do a life cycle analysis comparing vinyl to linoleum, one of our favourite green flooring materials. , and suggest that some vinyls (like Lonseal's LonEco 50% recycled flooring) qualify for LEED points. We note that LEED is considering giving points for PVC avoidance so that appears contradictory.
The story ends: "With the truth in hand, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together" We concur. We just don't think the truth is here. Read an online version from ::Environmental Design+Construction or the PDF from ::LONSEAL
A while back John wrote a defence of vinyl windows- This TreeHugger agreed with him then. We have changed our minds.