A new report that warns of human health risks related to PVC and recommends it be avoided for drinking water pipes is "junk science" and a "disservice to public health."
That is according to Bruce Hollands, executive director of the Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association, an Irving, Texas-based trade group.
"There is so much wrong with it, it is hard to know where to start," Hollands said in an email about the 56-page report, "The Perils of PVC Plastic."
The report was released April 18 by Bennington, Vt.-based Beyond Plastics, a nonprofit group that is pushing against the use of federal funds to replace lead water pipe with PVC.
Hollands was unavailable for comment at the time, but he shared his concerns in an April 26 email to Plastics News.
"[The report] is a confused conflation of pseudo-science, innuendo and outright bias," Hollands said. "For instance, the conclusion of the report states that 'at a minimum' PVC pipes leach phthalates. This is not possible since phthalates are not used in the manufacture of PVC water pipe."
Hollands also took issue with the report's claims that PVC pipe releases harmful organotins.
"Because there are many different types of organotin, environmental advocacy groups have used this to sow confusion about the safety of organotin stabilizers used in PVC pipe," Hollands said.
Studies have shown that one organotin, dibutyltin dichloride (DBTDC), may cause adverse health effects, Hollands said. However, this substance is not present in any of PVC pipe's raw materials, nor is it formed at any point during pipe manufacture, installation, or use, he added.
"In North America, the raw materials used to make PVC pipe often include heat stabilizers that contain tin. These organotin stabilizers have been tested and found to be safe for use in potable water applications," Hollands said.
All PVC pipe, fittings and materials are tested at least once per year for tin stabilizers by NSF International, Hollands said. Pipe samples are provided by the manufacturer or are selected randomly by third-part laboratory auditors during unannounced inspections of production facilities.
"Certification to NSF/ANSI Standard 61 confirms that leaching of organotin stabilizers used in PVC water pipe manufacturing is not a concern," Hollands said. "The bottom line is that PVC pipe does not contain dibutyltin dichloride and the tin stabilizers that are used in PVC pipe are not a health risk."
The Beyond Plastics report also makes false claims about PVC water pipe being the cause of benzene and other contaminants in water systems after wildfires, Hollands said. No PVC water distribution or transmission mains were ever affected by wildfires in California and remained in service throughout the events, he said.
"This fact alone makes it impossible for PVC pipe to have been a source of benzene contamination in the localities mentioned in the report," Hollands said. "Wildfires do not impact PVC water and sewer infrastructure pipe since it is buried underground, insulated from heat generated above ground. The primary source of benzene in forest fires is from the combustion of wood. Burning homes and other structures are secondary sources."
Hollands is directing attention to two Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for PVC pipe — one published in 2015, the other in 2023.
The EPDs state that PVC pipe and fittings are resistant to chemicals generally found in water and sewer systems, preventing any leaching or releases to ground and surface water during the use of the piping system. No known chemicals are released internally into the water system. No known toxicity effects occur in the use of the product.
"The best way to counter the misinformation in the Beyond Plastics report is with science and facts," Hollands said. "There are over 2 million miles of PVC water transmission and distribution pipe in service in North American and it has been used safely for more than 70 years."