HOUSTON — The Vinyl Institute plans to create a national advisory council and appoint several ``ambassadors'' in an attempt to improve the industry's image.
The advisory council will consist of 20-25 members chosen from among environmentalists, plant neighbors, religious leaders, public officials and anyone else who could help the industry's environmental and communications efforts attain ``widespread public acceptance,'' according to VI Executive Director Robert Burnett, who spoke at the Chemical Market Associates Inc.'s World Petrochemical Conference, held April 1-2 in Houston.
``We think this will be more accurate and consistent than other methods, such as phone polling,'' Burnett said. ``The group could have soccer moms from North Dakota or anybody.''
The council will meet with an independent mediator three or four times a year. VI hopes the first meeting will take place in June.
The PVC industry has been under fire for years for alleged health risks that environmental groups like Greenpeace have linked to PVC's production and use. VI still is fighting these battles, according to Burnett.
``There are no significant health risks associated with vinyl,'' he said. ``There's been a lot of misinterpretation and misrepresentations of data that's not scientifically sound.''
The ambassador program, a $4 million project that will be done jointly with the Chlorine Chemistry Council, aims to educate key groups about vinyl. Burnett said recent industry retirees would fit well into these roles.
In addition, VI is considering a return to Akron, Ohio, in 2000 for its second World Vinyl Forum. Burnett said the initial forum, held in October, exceeded VI goals for overall attendance and international participation.