The Healthy Building Network (HBN) has long tried to deceive the public about vinyl material. Over the years, the group has developed this rather odd, peculiar obsession with PVC.
So it didn’t come as any surprise to us that HBN’s founder, Bill Walsh, would invent another narrative against PVC to advance the group’s long running disinformation campaign against the vinyl industry.
But what made us shake our heads is just how weak and bizarre HBN’s arguments have become.
This time, HBN issued a new “report” that seeks to incite groundless hysteria by making the absurd claim that vinyl building products are singularly responsible for “driving” asbestos use in the U.S., since asbestos diaphragms are used in some chlor-alkali facilities to produce chlorine.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To be clear, this wasn’t a report at all – HBN simply worked with a few other groups to submit comments to the EPA on another regulatory issue. HBN is now dramatizing its comments to the media in hopes it will profit from any resulting publicity.
But HBN deliberately ignores one indisputable fact: Many major industries, such as metals processing, pulp and paper, water treatment, soaps and others, including vinyl, use chlori-alkali derived products.
In fact, the vinyl chain only uses an estimated 20 percent of the overall output of all U.S. chlor-alkali production. HBN can produce no evidence to contradict this – because it doesn’t exist.
We’ve corrected HBN on this point before, but it’s hard to understand how 20% consumption of the output of any process would be considered as driving demand. So they hide it from readers, and promote demonstrable falsehoods, hoping no one will call them out on it.
We have also pointed out to HBN that chlorine has hundreds of life enhancing uses in addition to vinyl.
The math isn’t complicated, but we’ll spell it out (again): 80 percent of chlor-alkali production is used to support a wide array of non-PVC products – including pharmaceuticals, water treatment, food additives and other building material products. This includes aluminum processing, ore flotation for metals production, wood pulp processing, rubber additives, textiles, and many plastics.
All of this begs an important question: If HBN truly cares about curbing the use of asbestos, why is it fixated on PVC when 80% of chlor-alkali output is being used for NON- PVC products and materials?
Of course, nowhere does Mr. Walsh reference the fact that asbestos use by the chlor-alkali industry is diminishing. According to USGS, it averaged 734,000 pounds over the last three years – down from the five-year average of 924,000 pounds.
And HBN conveniently omits the fact that asbestos is not an ingredient in any PVC products, and hasn’t been added to any flooring products since the 1980s. But we’ll take the initiative to clarify that point here.
Likewise, HBN promotes the dishonest assertion that asbestos miners in Minaçu, Brazil “prop up” the U.S. chemical and PVC industry. USGS data unequivocally shows that exports to the U.S. represent only 0.1 percent of this mine’s entire production.
Which means U.S. manufacturers could cease all imports from this facility, and over 99.9 percent of this mine’s production would remain intact.
And there’s this: Brazil accounts for nearly 15 percent of global asbestos production. So if HBN is so deeply concerned about the welfare of Brazilian asbestos miners, as Mr. Walsh would have us believe, why does HBN make no mention of other global industries that receive nearly all of the Minaçu mine’s asbestos production?
Perhaps the answer is because the group’s entire business model has been built on distorting and conflating facts to disparage the U.S. vinyl industry.
Spreading falsehoods about our industry has “propped up” HBN’s visibility with a receptive and collaborative press – that has systematically failed to challenge any of HBN’s claims against the vinyl industry.
HBN has turned this free promotion into a profitable enterprise, by selling consulting services to like-minded companies and organizations.
This hidden agenda – HBN’s own financial motivations – must never be overlooked when evaluating the integrity of this organization, and the validity of its positions against PVC.
And we will continue to expose it, as long as HBN persists in distorting the facts about our industry.
 VI Calculations based on USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries for past 5 years: 2013-2017