Vinyl Siding Got a Bad Rap

Your July/August cover article (EBN

Vol. 6, No. 7), “Residential Siding Options,” characterizes vinyl siding as “inexpensive, easy to install, virtually maintenance-free, and generally quite durable.” My members, producers of vinyl siding and suppliers to our industry, are pleased that

EBN recognizes these important benefits of vinyl siding.

We are concerned, however, that your article gives credence to allegations made by Greenpeace about the manufacturing and incineration of vinyl. The vinyl manufacturing process is closely regulated for potential environmental and health effects, and the industry regularly provides emission data to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More importantly, waste created during vinyl manufacturing is recycled in the production process and/or properly treated. Because the manufacture of vinyl is largely a closed process, activists concerned about “wayward emissions” are misinformed.

As to emissions associated with incineration, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers sponsored a study which analyzed the operation of 169 municipal waste combustors. This study showed no statistically significant relationship between the chlorine or vinyl content of the waste fed to the combustor and the generation of dioxin. Instead, ASME found that facility design and operation—not waste content control—are the best ways to control dioxin emissions from waste combustors.

More importantly, while Greenpeace alleges that dioxin levels are climbing, a number of studies show that dioxin emissions to the environment in industrialized nations have been steadily decreasing for more than 25 years. In contrast, vinyl production has nearly tripled during the same time.

Vinyl is a recyclable material with a 50-year history of safe performance. As stated by Michael Gallagher, professor of chemistry at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, “The only way you could harm anyone with vinyl would be to hit them over the head with a large piece of [vinyl] pipe.”

Vinyl was recently cited by Dow Jones News Service as the “most popular siding material in America.” More than a third of all new siding is vinyl, with more than 3 billion square feet produced annually. Our hope is that future

EBN articles will focus less on hypothetical allegations and more on the reality that an increasing number of Americans are choosing vinyl siding because it is arguably the most durable, affordable, and easy to maintain siding product on the market.

Jery Y. Huntley, Exec. Director

Vinyl Siding Institute

Washington, D.C.

Editor’s Response:

While Greenpeace has been most vocal regarding environmental and health concerns with PVC (vinyl), they are by no means the only voice out there expressing such concerns. There is widespread concern within the environmental and toxicology communities, not only about PVC and the products associated with its manufacture and disposal, but also about chemicals that are added to PVC to give it specific properties for building product applications. The plasticizer DHEP, for example, has been the focus of recent concern (see Common Plasticizer Linked to Asthma). Although the PVC industry has done a tremendous job over the past few decades at cleaning up its act, we stand by our concerns about PV-based building products for both environmental and health reasons.

Published January 1, 1998

(1998, January 1). Vinyl Siding Got a Bad Rap. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/op-ed/vinyl-siding-got-bad-rap

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.


October 8, 2008 - 11:48 am

See the Environmental Building News review of the film Blue Vinyl at http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm/2002/4/1/Blue-Vinyl-A-Toxi...

October 8, 2008 - 11:14 am

Anyone considering using vinyl siding or any PVC product should see the film "Blue Vinyl" (http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/bv.html) before making their decision. It is informative, funny, and sobering.