NYT Ignores Our Request to Address Misleading Video

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On 10/17, The New York Times posted a video that made a baseless claim about PVC - without citing any source to support it. 

The NYT also defied its own journalists responsibility to ensure balance by failing to include any comment from the PVC industry. 

We reached out privately with a letter to the NYT’s Executive Producer of VR, Ms. Marcelle Hopkins, addressing our concerns. But she ignored us. 

So we’re posting that letter here to ensure viewers have the facts. 


November 2, 2017

Ms. Marcelle Hopkins
Executive Producer, VR
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

Dear Ms. Hopkins,

A recent video installment of the New York Times Daily 360 series [“Ride a Weather Balloon Into (Near) Space”; 10/17] misleads viewers by irresponsibly claiming a connection between PVC production and the earth’s ozone layer – without identifying any source to support it.

The New York Times ignored basic journalism standards by failing to provide the public with any substantive facts to defend this claim. Instead, the narrator cites a mysterious and unnamed “study” to validate the assertion. What’s more, the New York Times defied its obligation to provide viewers with proper context and balance, which would have enabled them to evaluate the statement’s legitimacy based on a totality of the facts.  Instead, the narrator blindly makes the allegation, and falsely expects New York Times viewers to simply believe it at face value.

That doesn’t cut it, because readers and viewers of online news content demand more – and deserve more – from organizations that wish to be viewed with even a modicum of credibility.  

At issue is the narrator’s assertion that “a longstanding hole in the ozone layer had begun to close, but a recently released study found that new chemicals used for paint stripping and in PVC may set the process back by several decades.” That’s as specific as it gets. The information is presented as fact, yet the Times neglected to reveal the source of this information, or the chemical in question. Beyond these glaring omissions, no one from the New York Times reached out to the Vinyl Institute, the leading industry representative of U.S. PVC producers, to offer an opportunity to address or dispute the claim.

This isn’t just bad journalism – it’s a failure of the Times to uphold its own basic commitment to “truth” in journalism, to, “whatever the medium, tell our audiences the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it.” This unfounded allegation about PVC production fails to meet that standard, and in doing so does a disservice to Times readers. As such, we ask the section time-stamped :50-:58 be immediately removed from the video, so that viewers are not further deceived by these misleading statements regarding PVC material.

Sincerely,

Susan Wade
Vice President of Marketing and Communications
The Vinyl Institute

 

Correcting faulty news reports once more

Two outlets recently published false information about vinyl that require correction. Both articles missed key parts of the story – which the reporters could have easily found.

Our first stop is Wisconsin.  In a piece for WisCONTEXT, reporter Scott Gordon [The Emerging Evidence of BPA’s Effects On Human Development; 10/26] quotes a psychologist, Heather Molenda-Figueira, who falsely asserts that BPA is a component of PVC. It’s not. Period. BPA is a different compound altogether than PVC.  And to air this misrepresentation distorts the facts and deceives readers.

Mr. Gordon has an obligation to ensure the statements of those he interviews are factually sound before he publishes his stories. But he didn’t do that in this case. It wouldn’t have taken much effort on Mr. Gordon’s part to contact us on this point, and that simple action would have prevented the public from being misled. In the interest of providing readers accurate information, we trust Mr. Gordon will strike this reference and revise his article accordingly.

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Our next stop is in Michigan, where a piece in Bridge Magazine by Chad Selweski [Chemical Valley and the threat to Michigan’s drinking water; 10/31] misleads readers about PVC and omits key facts. The article focuses on industrial manufacturers in Sarnia, Ontario, where Mr. Selweski cites a biologist who claims vinyl chloride used for “plastics and PVC pipe” could be a source of alleged ongoing emissions there.

There’s just one problem – there is no vinyl chloride or PVC production taking place in Sarnia. And there hasn’t been for nearly a decade, as the only PVC resin plant there closed back in in 2008.

But Mr. Selweski fails to disclose this to readers, and instead the article leads them to believe vinyl chloride for PVC production is causing emissions in that area – and raises responsible questions regarding the article’s other claims, and its overall credibility.  

Reporters should address these mistakes and work diligently to avoid similar errors in the future. It’s why Vinyl Verified exists – and we will continue to correct the record when articles misinform the public about vinyl and PVC moving forward.

Exposing DIPRA’s Latest Scheme to Disparage PVC Pipe

We learned recently that representatives at the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) have been contacting municipalities requesting rare pictures of broken PVC pipe.

Of course, it’s certainly possible DIPRA might be looking for these images to study why PVC pipe breaks are so uncommon. DIPRA is fully aware of the facts that prove PVC pipe’s unmatched durability in the installed environment, including extreme weather conditions. So it’s within the realm of possibility that DIPRA might be searching for these pictures to determine ways ductile iron pipe might emulate its performance in this regard. 

But our guess is that DIPRA will likely use them to do what it does best – distort the facts and continue to deceive the public about our material.

Here’s what DIPRA won’t tell you, if its representatives are able to find the pictures they’re desperately seeking, to further mislead the public about PVC pipe:

  • PVC pipe breaks are incredibly rare. DIPRA predictably won’t disclose that in the unusual instance when such breaks occur, it often has nothing to do with the integrity of the pipe itself. Improper installation is the leading cause. DIPRA doesn’t want you to know this, of course, because they want to mislead you to think the material is somehow inherently flawed. So we’ll make sure you have the facts. 
  • PVC pipe has twice the projected lifespan of ductile iron pipe. It is a non-corrosive material, unlike iron pipe, and PVC pipe has the lowest water main break rate of all pipe materials in North America.
  •  PVC pipe can withstand extreme temperatures.  Remember that time last winter when you were caught in horrible traffic, and late for work, because a water main broke in your area? Wasn’t that fun? Odds are that was an iron pipe that failed. Studies show PVC pipes offer a high degree of resilience in freezing conditions and even after 25 years, meet all new pipe requirements.
  • PVC pipe has a lower carbon footprint than ductile iron pipe, too.  PVC pipe is lighter to transport, requires less heavy machinery to install – and its longer lifespan means fewer repairs or replacements, resulting in lower carbon emissions.

Now, if DIPRA really wants to have an informed debate about the durability of pipe materials today, it might care to look at iron pipe failures.  Iron pipes have some of the highest break rates in North America, according to a study by the Buried Structures Laboratory at Utah State University. Not only that, but PVC has the lowest break rate of any pipe tested.

 
 

It’s always a safe bet that DIPRA won’t convey an accurate view of PVC pipe. We don’t expect the organization will ever acknowledge that PVC pipe is indeed the stronger, more affordable, more durable, and more eco-friendly, material option today.

But what is likely to happen is that DIPRA will continue to use discredited studies to distort the facts about PVC pipe. And it will do everything it can to try and hold on to iron pipe’s failing monopoly, as it attempts to block states from being allowed to even consider PVC pipe as a replacement material – which will only drive up costs for U.S. taxpayers.

But we will be there, every step of the way, to call DIPRA out – and ensure the facts about PVC pipe prevail.

Architect Magazine Refuses to Publish VI Letter-to-Editor Responding to Misleading Article

Architect Magazine Refuses to Publish VI Letter-to-Editor Responding to Misleading Article

On 8/17, Chris Bentley, a reporter with Architect Magazine (ARCHITECT), published a story that included an inaccurate statement about PVC. The article also quoted an individual with a history of misleading the public on PVC – without disclosing the financial motivations fueling his organization’s years-long distortion campaign against vinyl material. 

Yet when Dick Doyle, CEO of the Vinyl Institute (VI), submitted a Letter-to-the-Editor (LTE) to clarify the facts for ARCHITECT readers … ARCHITECT refused to run it.

Mr. Bentley’s original article incorrectly claimed some PVCs were “reinforced” with asbestos. The assertion is flatly untrue.  The story also quoted Jim Vallette of the Healthy Building Network (HBN), and positioned him as a credible source on PVC issues.  That’s wrong, too.  We’ve corrected Mr. Vallette and HBN multiple times in the past for conflating statistics and advancing misinformation about PVC in the discourse. What’s more, the article failed to acknowledge that Mr. Vallette’s organization markets anti-PVC business services, and has a financial incentive to make irresponsible claims about vinyl products.

Mr. Doyle’s LTE spelled out these facts. But the magazine ignored multiple requests to publish it, and instead issued a story correction. The wording of the correction, though, continued to leave readers with the misimpression that asbestos may found in certain vinyl products. And it avoided any reference to HBN’s anti-PVC business services, which would have given readers the chance to evaluate for themselves the reliability of Mr. Vallette’s positions.

After continued back and forth, ARCHITECT then offered to take an isolated quote from Mr. Doyle’s LTE challenging the asbestos claims, and insert it into the online article. (It’s worth noting the original story was entirely one-sided, and lacked any balance or perspective from industry when it originally published.)

But even with that modification, the story still failed to address the credibility issues confronting Mr. Vallette and HBN. And ARCHITECT remained defiant in denying Mr. Doyle the opportunity to clarify those facts for readers.

So, in the interest of transparency, we’ll publish Mr. Doyle’s LTE – which ARCHITECT refused to run – in its entirety here:  

Inaccurate Statements About PVC

Architect Magazine failed to disclose a conflict-of-interest of an agenda-driven opponent of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) featured in a recent story ("The EPA is Rolling Back Regulations on Potentially Harmful Chemicals," August 17, 2017). The author, Chris Bentley, also made several inaccurate statements regarding PVC material that must be corrected.

Jim Vallette of the Healthy Building Network is no expert on PVC.  In fact, he has a track record of making false claims about it – perhaps because he knows provocative statements about PVC, regardless of the merits, will attract greater publicity for himself and possibly increase revenue for his organization’s anti-PVC business services.

It’s unclear whether Mr. Bentley was fed misinformation by Mr. Vallette, or composed his misrepresentations about PVC and asbestos on his own.  Either way, we’ll be clear:   Asbestos is not used in PVC piping products or vinyl siding products, and it was voluntarily phased out of vinyl flooring products in the mid 1980’s.

We’re concerned Architect Magazine would source Mr. Vallette without also noting that his views against PVC are financially motivated. And we’re troubled Mr. Bentley would publish a story containing false information about PVC that egregiously misleads readers without first confirming the facts.

Readers deserve better.

By Richard Doyle, president & CEO of the Vinyl Institute

 

 

Healthy Building Network Is At It Again…

We recently learned that the Healthy Building Network (HBN), a group with a self-described mission to “phase-out PVC building products,” is developing a new subscription research program on the PVC supply chain, including chlorine and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). Ironically -- some might say brazenly – HBN is seeking support from the PVC industry to fund it.

HBN has a long, undeniable history of distorting the facts on PVC.  We’ve documented them here, here, here, and here.  The group’s statements and baseless claims against our industry have revealed an extraordinary lack of factual understanding and credibility regarding important matters involving PVC.

Take, for example, HBN’s emphasis on global chlor-alkali processes, some of which around the world use asbestos and mercury during production. These processes are heavily regulated and have been proven safe.  But HBN has falsely claimed our industry is responsible for the majority of asbestos use in the United States. That, however, is not true, as some 80 percent of chlor-alkali production is used in a wide array of non-PVC products – including pharmaceuticals, water treatment, food additives, and other building material products.  In fact, the major use of asbestos today on a global basis is cement-asbestos board building materials and large diameter concrete drainage and sewer pipe.  In the United States, the use of asbestos in these materials has been discontinued decades ago, while other parts of the world still allow it. 

Despite these facts, HBN continues to advance inaccurate information in the discourse about our industry. We’ve corrected them before, yet they repeatedly deceive the public. Which raises a rather obvious question in the context of the group’s current research endeavor: If HBN truly cares about “accelerating the sun-setting of some high hazard substances,” as it has stated, why is it exclusively fixated on PVC? And what does that say about the group’s ability to be remotely independent about the way they collect, curate and present their findings on PVC?

What it tells us is that HBN has little interest in advancing the facts, and may be motivated more by establishing ways to profit off its anti-PVC campaigns – something we’ve exposed before here on VinylVerified.  

It should surprise no one that under HBN’s proposed subscriber agreement, participating organizations would provide information to the group to use as HBN sees fit.  This means that information volunteered as part of a good faith effort to build a better business could be used to further HBN’s ideological agenda – one openly hostile to the continued use of PVC products.

We should also point out that the data HBN seeks to collect, and have our industry finance, already exists.  IHS Markit, an independent, third-party organization with no ulterior or hidden agenda, conducts global assessments of the PVC resin, vinyl chloride monomers, and chlor-alkali industry.  And IHS Markit provides companies with unbiased data, contrary to what HBN would likely deliver.

Make no mistake: This purported olive branch by HBN is nothing more than an attempt to gain access and influence the decisions of our industry, and advance HBN’s broader mission to remove PVC from the marketplace. It is a common tactic used by many activist organizations.  It should be noted that HBN’s founder, Bill Walsh, is a Greenpeace alum – a group that has used many of the same maneuvers to achieve its ends, often at great expense to companies that choose to partner with them in good faith.

This isn’t about information. It’s about intimidation. HBN needs to prove that it is a responsible group committed to an open and transparent process that recognizes the industry’s achievements and focuses on continuous performance improvement, rather than eliminating  the PVC industry. This approach would help contributors be assured their money is being spent in good faith.