Is it safe to install vinyl siding? An expert on green building reports that while vinyl can be a dangerous material, there is little credible research regarding the effects of vinyl siding on humans. “The impact is more in the manufacture and disposal [of vinyl or PVC products],” said Greg Caplan, owner of Living Structures Inc., Jamaica Plain, MA.
Vinyl has been documented by the Environmental Protection Agency and other health organizations as containing a known carcinogen (dioxin) and various hormone disrupters. In addition, lead (one of the known health dangers) is often used as a stabilizing agent in the production of vinyl siding products.
The Real Danger of Vinyl Siding
Even a small house fire that affects the vinyl siding will lead to the release of a host of health dangers due to toxic chemicals known to severely damage lung and kidney tissue. “Your biggest concern is if the house catches fire. Even the ash is dangerous,” said Caplan. He added that the binders in vinyl siding are also affected by ultraviolet light and oxidation. “We see that with all kinds of plastics,” he said.
That said, heat and severe weather may have also played a part in numerous reports in 2006 of illnesses affecting Hurricane Katrina evacuees who were placed in FEMA trailers. Most, if not all of the trailers were vinyl-sided. People working in or living near a vinyl manufacturing plant are exposed to the most health dangers and are at the greatest risk for cancer, neurological damage, birth defects and lung and kidney disease.
Vinyl is most dangerous when being manufactured and during disposal. Vinyl in a landfill can be a threat to groundwater via release of dioxins and other toxins as the material breaks down.
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