PVC is nasty. From start to finish it is a toxic material beginning with hazardous chemicals to make, off-gasses, essentially does not decompose, and causes heath problems such as cancer. So why do we keep using it? There's been a lot of discussion on Apartment Therapy about non-PVC shower curtains - this is obvious because we look at them everyday. But what about all the other PVC items in our homes that we can't see? Are they necessary components to home building, or are there better alternatives?
The most recent issue of Natural Home Magazine features a couple who went extra lengths to eliminate PVC from their new home and explained how...
- Waste Pipes: Request old-fashioned, nontoxic cast-iron plumbing.
- Electrical Boxes: Metal boxes are readily available and cost the same as PVC. The underground electrical conduit is fiberglass rather than PVC.
- Wiring: "You can't get wire for residential use that's not PVC-clad – but we really tried," Tony says. Research uncovered another startling fact: Most PVC-covered wire contains lead to make it supple. The couple opted for lead-free wiring so the installers wouldn't be exposed while handling it.
- Piping: PEX (crossed polyethylene) is used in water supply lines and radiant floor tubes. The Grassis avoided copper tubing because arsenic can leach from copper mines.
- Curtain (French) Drains: Instead of using PVC to manage drainage around the home's foundation, opt for high-density polyethylene (HDPE).
- Geothermal Well Lining: Most geothermal wells are designed with PVC pipe as liners. Because they drink from the well, the Grassis used environmentally preferable polypropylene, which is considerably more expensive than PVC. However, it's insulation properties help make the geothermal system more effiecient, mitigating some of the cost.
How have you banned PVC from your home?
top image via Dreamstime