HBN’s Latest Publicity Stunt Misleads Readers on PVC

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.

Since our inception here at Vinyl Verified, we’ve had to correct a number of inaccuracies HBN has perpetuated about PVC, here, here and here.

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.[1] HBN can produce no evidence to contradict this – because it doesn’t exist.

We’ve corrected HBN on this point before,[2] 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[3].

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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7] 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.


The PVC Pipe Association and Vinyl Institute Statement regarding the I-85 Bridge Collapse

WASHINGTON, DC – March 31, 2017 -- The PVC Pipe Association (PVCPA) and Vinyl Institute (VI) are committed to making sure the facts surrounding the cause of the I-85 bridge collapse in Atlanta, GA prevail. Fortunately, there were no injuries and we are thankful that the responders to the scene kept themselves and the citizens of Atlanta safe.

There are many questions that have yet to be answered. But here is what we do know:

In a press conference, Russell McMurray, the Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner, said the cause of the fire at this time is not known, but coils of high density plastic telecommunications conduit were stored beneath the bridge. This is a different material than PVC piping. PVC is very rigid and is not used in coils of high density telecommunications conduit.

PVC pipe is a stable material with low combustibility. It is difficult to ignite. And the type of thick smoke seen emanating from the I-85 bridge indicates a combination of combustible materials.

Commissioner McMurray also noted PVC pipe’s low combustibility in a statement issued earlier this morning. And the science confirms it.

Numerous studies over the years have affirmed this fact. For example, an upcoming paper in Fire and Materials Magazine by Dr. Marcelo Hirschler, a fire safety expert with GBH International, examines the fire safety of PVC and states that “PVC materials are among the least easily ignitable polymers.”

It’s important the investigation be allowed to run its course, where all of the facts are thoroughly examined, before any rush to judgment is made as to the potential source of this event.

And PVC Pipe Association and the Vinyl Institute will continue do their parts to ensure accurate information about PVC material exists in the public discourse moving forward.

About the PVC Pipe Association
Founded in 1971 as a non-profit organization, the PVC Pipe Association is the authoritative source of information on PVC pipe. It serves the engineering, regulatory, public health and standardization communities. Introduced in North America in 1951, corrosion-proof PVC piping offers a superior, proven and truly sustainable solution for underground infrastructure, helping municipalities spend smarter and giving taxpayers the best return on their dollar. For more information, visit: http://www.uni-bell.org

About the Vinyl Institute:
The Vinyl Institute is a US trade association representing the leading manufacturers of vinyl, vinyl chloride monomer, and vinyl additives and modifiers. The VI works on behalf of its members to promote the benefits of the world’s most versatile plastic, used to make everything from household appliances to flooring, piping, roofing and wallcovering. For more information, visit: http://www.vinylinfo.org

 

WJLA Misses the Mark on Fire Safety

Scattered local news stations, mostly under the Sinclair Broadcast Group umbrella, recently aired reports on a flawed Underwriters Laboratories (UL) study on home fires. WJLA (ABC7) Washington, DC joined in with a story aired on March 1. While reporter Kimberly Suiters did include some balance at the end of her piece, and by posting materials from the Vinyl Siding Institute at the end of her web article, she continued the trend of missing the mark on fire safety. Stories like these should focus on preventing fires, not re-hashing a decade-old tragedy.

Buried in these segments, or not mentioned at all, is that fact that the UL study was flawed and rejected by UL’s own advisory working group. Another main aspect of any story on fire safety should be that less than four percent of home fires start on the exterior – according to the National Fire Protection Association. Reporters should present consumers with the facts. In discussions about fire safety, it is important to talk about ways to prevent fires and limit the spread, not to scare consumers and taint their views on products that meet and exceed fire safety standards.

It does beg the question of whether Sinclair Broadcast Group is circulating this highly misleading template to their affiliates, considering most of the stories are copycats and ignore our publicly addressed concerns.

Here’s what consumers, and reporters covering this issue, need to know:

  • The 9 year old fire in Loudoun County, VA is a very specific case and not a good example of exterior fires. The footage of this fire used in the WJLA piece and others, likely because it captivating footage of a fire. But the official report on this fire found that a number of factors were to blame for the results of the incident. At least Suiters mentioned the fire was from 2008, unlike other reporters, but she still used the same scare-tactics, misleading viewers at the same time.
  • UL ignored its own advisory group’s concerns about the study. Before undertaking their study, UL convened an advisory group of industry experts, which expressed many concerns about the test plan and tone of the proposed work. UL dismissed those concerns and did not consult with the group through the rest of the program. As a result, the study published by UL reflects flawed test methodology and inappropriate conclusions.
  • UL has not responded to these concerns and continues to make the study available online. The technical deficiencies in the UL study were so egregious that representatives of UL’s working group signed a joint letter in February, 2016 urging UL to promptly remove the study and related wall assembly training videos from UL’s website, UL’s YouTube channel and other UL forums to avoid misleading the public. UL dismissed the working group’s request to have the flawed study taken down.  Remarkably, UL never even responded to the facts presented by the working group regarding the discredited study.
  • The UL study ignores real world scenarios and its conclusions are invalid and cannot be trusted. For example, a fire was replicated by putting a grill directly against the side of the house. Unlikely scenario since the grill would not even be able to open in that position.
  • No residential exterior cladding is designed to be a barrier to fire. WJLA conveyed the impression that vinyl siding should act as a fire barrier to underlying insulation, but that is not the intended role of vinyl siding, wood or any residential exterior cladding. Viewers are right to wonder why stations would selectively hold vinyl siding to this high standard – and fail to point out that wood exterior cladding would likely ignite and burn before the vinyl siding, and likely before any underlying material that the vinyl siding might expose. Moreover, wood sheathing is one of the materials that may be found underneath siding, but such material is already exposed when the house is clad with wood.
  • The fact is, residential fires rarely start outside the structure, and claddings of any type are seldom a factor.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, only four percent of all residential fires start on the outside of the structure, but do not necessarily originate with the exterior cladding. Fewer than two percent of house fires originate with the exterior wall surface, and fewer than three percent of all fires go beyond the structure of origin. The most common areas that produce fires are the kitchen, bedroom, and living room, and most fires (69 percent) never leave the room of origin.
  • To contain residential fires, efforts should focus on limiting the spread of fire to critical areas. This includes eave construction, for example, which should be reexamined to slow a fire’s acceleration from the exterior wall to the attic.  One approach would be to “harden” the interface between the exterior wall and the attic so that fire cannot spread so readily into the attic. This would be consistent with the overall fire protection strategy for combustible buildings, which is to compartmentalize fire so that it cannot readily spread to different areas of the building, while still providing necessary functions such as ventilation.

Here’s What You Can Expect from Washington, DC, WJLA’s Irresponsible Story on Vinyl Siding Tonight

Tonight at 11pm, WJLA (ABC 7) will air a reckless and irresponsible story about vinyl siding that will likely ignore a number of key facts provided in advance by the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI). Here are our predictions as to what you can expect to see – and key facts that will be omitted – in tonight’s broadcast:

WJLA won’t tell viewers that the UL study at the center of tonight’s news report is flawed: It ignores real world scenarios and its conclusions are invalid and cannot be trusted. For example, a fire was replicated by putting a grill directly against the side of the house. Unlikely scenario since the grill would not even be able to open in that position.

WJLA won’t inform viewers that UL’s own working group rejected the study: The group UL hand-picked as an advisory panel for the study urged UL to remove it online due to the study’s unreliable methodology.  UL ignored their concerns, and released it anyway. 

WJLA will sensationalize a single house fire from nine years ago in Loudoun County as representative of a rampant problem regarding vinyl siding safety.  WJLA won’t clarify that the official report on this fire found that a number of factors were to blame for the result of the incident.

WJLA will interview a local fire chief who will express misplaced, uninformed concerns about vinyl siding. We admire our brave firefighters, but they are not informed on the chemistry of vinyl siding, and many do not know the facts about the material. Their views on this issue have been based largely on the flawed UL study, a report that has been publicly discredited.  

WJLA will conceal from viewers that vinyl siding burns slower than wood. Vinyl siding’s ignition temperature is significantly higher than common framing lumber and wood exterior wall covering, This is fact -- but since it conflicts with WJLA’s interest to incite reckless fear among its viewers, you likely won’t hear about it in tonight’s segment.

WJLA will not clarify that fires starting outside the home are extremely rare. Roughly four percent of fires start outside the home, and claddings of any type are seldom a factor. Most fires start in the home – predominately in the kitchen, bathroom, or living room. But WJLA will try to deceive viewers by positioning such events a common, everyday occurrence -- so you likely won’t hear this important context.

WJLA won’t disclose that tonight’s report will be a copy of NBC4’s misleading segment last year. In a shameless display of unoriginal / copycat journalism, tonight’s broadcast will air the same misleading segment NBC4 ran last year.

At least 90 percent of tonight’s broadcast will be negative and misleading in tone and content. We predict that that roughly 90 percent of tonight’s story will focus on the baseless assertions against vinyl siding, and only 10 percent of the segment will reference or quote the lengthy response VSI provided in advance clarifying the facts. And it will reflect the report’s overall unbalanced, non-objective portrayal of vinyl siding.

Of course, we hope to be proven wrong. We’d be pleasantly surprised if WJLA presented a well-rounded, informed examination of this important issue of local viewers. But we’re rather confident that won’t be the case …

KEYE AIRS ONE-SIDED, FLAWED REPORT ON VINYL SIDING

Adela Uchida with Austin, TX’s KEYE copy-catted a Washington, D.C. NBC affiliate’s story from November, using the flawed report on vinyl siding and fire safety that withheld a number of critical facts for viewers.

Unlike NBC4, however, Ms. Uchida failed to contact the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) for comment – or provide any balance whatsoever in her story.  Ms. Uchida was no doubt aware of VSI’s participation in the NBC4 story (a simple web search reveals it), and any credible journalist would have reached out to us – the nation’s leading voice for the vinyl siding industry – to provide valued perspective on this important matter. 

So we’re taking this opportunity to provide a detailed correction of her one-sided interpretation of this issue, and deliver the facts – which we would have gladly provided, had she extended us the simple courtesy of responding:

KEYE sensationalized a nine year-old tragic house fire by laying blame on vinyl siding.  A 210-page report issued by the local fire chief found that a number of factors were to blame for the tragic results of the fire.  KEYE concealed this critical fact for viewers, and opted instead to show footage of the burning home while misleading viewers to believe vinyl siding may have been the cause – a flawed assumption not supported by the report or other studies. KEYE’s Adela Uchida sensationalized a single fire event from eight years ago that occurred approximately 1,500 miles away from the Austin area to create reckless fear and unnecessary concern over vinyl siding safety for her local viewers. And the careless way in which Ms. Uchida approaches this topic is perhaps best illustrated by her misspelling of where the fire in question took place. It was in “Loudoun” County, not “Loudon” County as her online story and on-air chyron show.

UL ignored its own advisory group’s concerns about the study featured in Ms. Uchida’s report. Before undertaking their study, UL convened an advisory group of industry experts, which expressed many concerns about the test plan and tone of the proposed work. UL dismissed those concerns and did not consult with the group through the rest of the program. As a result, the report published by UL reflects flawed test methodology and inappropriate conclusions. Ms. Uchida disregarded these facts in her story.

UL has not responded to these concerns and continues to make it available online.  The UL tests used an unusually high-energy ignition source and atypical plywood sheathing, rather than the more common OSB sheathing. UL performed improperly controlled tests that mischaracterize the role of vinyl siding in house fires. When properly controlled tests are done, the differences between the use of plastics and wood are less significant or non-existent. In fact, the technical deficiencies in the UL report were so egregious that representatives of UL’s working group signed a joint letter in February, 2016 urging UL to promptly remove the report and related wall assembly training videos from UL’s website, UL’s YouTube channel and other UL forums to avoid misleading the public. UL dismissed the working group’s request to have the flawed study taken down.  Remarkably, UL never even responded to the facts presented by the working group regarding the discredited report. Ms. Uchida concealed these points in her report.

The KEYE story improperly suggests that vinyl siding is specifically responsible for spread of fire. Typical houses are by design composed primarily of combustible materials. Combustible sheathings of several types are normally used under the cladding. When a wall catches fire all of the combustible materials will contribute in some way to fire progression.  Because of its inherently fire retardant characteristics, vinyl siding is neither the only nor the primary cause of fire spread. Indeed, when a noncombustible material is used, a fire involving just vinyl siding is far less aggressive and may not even progress all the way up the wall.

Vinyl siding is more difficult than many other building materials to ignite. Ms. Uchida failed to correct an inaccurate statement by Lake Travis Fire Rescue Assistant Chief, Rick Tess. His comment that vinyl siding “catches fire more rapidly” is not true.  Vinyl, also known as PVC or polyvinyl chloride, starts with two simple building blocks: chlorine (57%) from common salt and ethylene (43%) from natural gas. This means vinyl siding won’t ignite, even from another flame, until it reaches about 730°F (387°C), and will not self-ignite until 850°F (454°C). Those ignition temperatures are significantly higher than common framing lumber and wood exterior wall covering, which ignites from a flame at 500°F (260°C) and self-ignites at 770°F (410°C). 

Even if ignited, vinyl siding burns more slowly than wood. Tests show that vinyl siding needs unusually high amounts of oxygen to burn and stay burning. It will not independently sustain combustion in air with a normal concentration of oxygen (about 21 percent) — so it extinguishes relatively easily.  A more detailed explanation of this may be found here. Ms. Uchida failed to explain this to her viewers.

The fact is, residential fires rarely start outside the structure, and claddings of any type are seldom a factor.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, only four percent of all residential fires start on the outside of the structure, but do not necessarily originate with the exterior cladding. Fewer than two percent of house fires originate with the exterior wall surface, and fewer than three percent of all fires go beyond the structure of origin. The most common areas that produce fires are the kitchen, bedroom, and living room, and most fires (69 percent) never leave the room of origin.

To contain residential fires, efforts should focus on limiting the spread of fire to critical areas. This includes eave construction, for example, which should be reexamined to slow a fire’s acceleration from the exterior wall to the attic.  One approach would be to “harden” the interface between the exterior wall and the attic so that fire cannot spread so readily into the attic. This would be consistent with the overall fire protection strategy for combustible buildings, which is to compartmentalize fire so that it cannot readily spread to different areas of the building, while still providing necessary functions such as ventilation.  This perspective was missing from Ms. Uchida’s story.

We thank our brave firefighters for their courageous service to our country. But their concerns with respect to vinyl siding and home fires are misplaced. VSI will continue to work closely with fire chiefs, other fire service members, and other material stakeholders to study recent trends in suburban fires. Our focus has been on working cooperatively to identify appropriate actions that can be taken to accurately and effectively address correctable fire safety issues, and ways to limit fire spread into the building interior.  

DIPRA Century Club Member Defects to PVC Pipe

The Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) proudly promotes what it calls the “Century Club,” members of which include cities across America that have used iron pipe for more than 100 years.  

But what happens when Century Club cities determine, correctly, that PVC pipe is the better choice, both in terms of reliability and affordability. We couldn’t help but wonder – would DIPRA revoke their Club membership?

Nofolk, VA may soon know the answer.  A local news outlet recently reported that the city’s investment to replace its iron pipe with PVC pipe is “paying off,” exhibited by the remarkable drop in pipe failures that have occurred this year.  According to Harry Kenyon, Management Services Administrator with Norfolk’s Department of Utilities:

"Generally when you get really cold weather like this and then it warms up it makes our pipes contract and expand and often times we'll see main breaks, so this time around we only saw four which is very good."

Kenyon added that there are 900 miles of pipe running under city streets.

"We've been working on infrastructure replacement. Replacing old cast-iron pipes, with PVC plastic pipes. And I think those improvements we're seeing the results of that, so we're seeing fewer main breaks."

For once, we agree with DIPRA – Norfolk, VA is indeed a great example to follow when choosing the best material available to support our nation’s water infrastructure.

NBC4 Misleads Viewers on Vinyl Siding

NBC4 Fails to Highlight Important Facts Provided in Advance, Airs Irresponsible Story

On November 21, 2016, Washington, DC’s NBC4 aired a flawed report on vinyl siding and fire safety that withheld a number of critical facts provided in advance to the segment’s reporter, Tisha Thompson. Despite efforts by the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) to equip NBC4 with a balanced perspective on the issue prior to the broadcast, much of the information was downplayed or ignored, resulting in an irresponsible news segment that deceived viewers about a proven, trusted and affordable material that millions of Americans have used for decades.  

Specifically, VSI’s Jeffrey Smith provided Ms. Thompson a series of facts on October 25, 2016 contesting a number of preconceived misperceptions about vinyl siding and residential fires, including a widely discredited UL study at the center of NBC4’s report. A full copy of Mr. Smith’s letter may be viewed here. Among the facts Ms. Thompson failed to include or clarify in her story:

  • NBC4 sensationalized an 8-year old tragic house fire by laying blame on vinyl siding.  A 210-page report issued by the local fire chief found that a number of factors were to blame for the tragic results of the fire.  NBC4 concealed this critical fact for viewers, and opted instead to show footage of the burning home while misleading viewers to believe vinyl siding may have been the cause – a flawed assumption not supported by the report or other studies. Additionally, NBC4 conveyed the impression that the fire occurred recently, when in fact it took place back in 2008.  Simply put, NBC4 sensationalized a single fire event from eight years ago to create reckless fear and unnecessary concern over vinyl siding safety.
     
  • UL ignored its own advisory group’s concerns about the study featured in Ms. Thompson’s report. Before undertaking their study, UL convened an advisory group of industry experts, which expressed many concerns about the test plan and tone of the proposed work. UL dismissed those concerns and did not consult with the group through the rest of the program. As a result, the report published by UL reflects flawed test methodology and inappropriate conclusions.
     
  • Members of the advisory group have publicly disputed the UL report. The UL report and associated video modules – which suggested that construction using wood sheathing provides a significant advantage over other sheathings – are misleading due to flawed methodology. The UL tests used an unusually high-energy ignition source and atypical plywood sheathing, rather than the more common OSB sheathing. UL performed improperly controlled tests that mischaracterize the role of vinyl siding in house fires. When properly controlled tests are done, the differences between the use of plastics and wood are less significant or non-existent. 
     
  • UL has not responded to these concerns and continues to make it available online. The technical deficiencies in the UL report were so egregious that representatives of UL’s working group signed a joint letter in February, 2016 urging UL to promptly remove the report and related wall assembly training videos from UL’s website, UL’s YouTube channel and other UL forums to avoid misleading the public. UL dismissed the working group’s request to have the flawed study taken down.  Remarkably, UL never even responded to the facts presented by the working group regarding the discredited report.
     
  • No residential exterior cladding is designed to be a barrier to fire. NBC4 conveyed the impression that vinyl siding should act as a fire barrier to underlying insulation, but that is not the intended role of vinyl siding, wood or any residential exterior cladding. Viewers are right to wonder why NBC4 would selectively hold vinyl siding to this high standard – and fail to point out that wood exterior cladding would likely ignite and burn before the vinyl siding, and likely before any underlying material that the vinyl siding might expose. Moreover, wood sheathing is one of the materials that may be found underneath siding, but such material is already exposed when the house is clad with wood.
     
  • The story improperly suggests that vinyl siding is specifically responsible for spread of fire. Typical houses are by design composed primarily of combustible materials. Combustible sheathings of several types are normally used under the cladding. When a wall catches fire all of the combustible materials will contribute in some way to fire progression.  Because of its inherently fire retardant characteristics, vinyl siding is neither the only nor the primary cause of fire spread. Indeed, when a noncombustible material is used, a fire involving just vinyl siding is far less aggressive and may not even progress all the way up the wall.
     
  • Vinyl siding is more difficult than many other building materials to ignite. Vinyl, also known as PVC or polyvinyl chloride, starts with two simple building blocks: chlorine (57%) from common salt and ethylene (43%) from natural gas. This means vinyl siding won’t ignite, even from another flame, until it reaches about 730°F (387°C), and will not self-ignite until 850°F (454°C). Those ignition temperatures are significantly higher than common framing lumber and wood exterior wall covering, which ignites from a flame at 500°F (260°C) and self-ignites at 770°F (410°C).
     
  • Even if ignited, vinyl siding burns more slowly than wood. Tests show that vinyl siding needs unusually high amounts of oxygen to burn and stay burning. It will not independently sustain combustion in air with a normal concentration of oxygen (about 21 percent) — so it extinguishes relatively easily.  A more detailed explanation of this may be found here.

The fact is, residential fires rarely start outside the structure, and claddings of any type are seldom a factor.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, only four percent of all residential fires start on the outside of the structure, but do not necessarily originate with the exterior cladding. Fewer than two percent of house fires originate with the exterior wall surface, and fewer than three percent of all fires go beyond the structure of origin. The most common areas that produce fires are the kitchen, bedroom, and living room, and most fires (69 percent) never leave the room of origin.

To contain residential fires, efforts should focus on limiting the spread of fire to critical areas. This includes eave construction, for example, which should be reexamined to slow a fire’s acceleration from the exterior wall to the attic.  One approach would be to “harden” the interface between the exterior wall and the attic so that fire cannot spread so readily into the attic. This would be consistent with the overall fire protection strategy for combustible buildings, which is to compartmentalize fire so that it cannot readily spread to different areas of the building, while still providing necessary functions such as ventilation. 

We thank our brave firefighters for their courageous service to our country. But their concerns with respect to vinyl siding and home fires are misplaced. VSI will continue to work closely with Chief Brower, other fire service members, and other material stakeholders to study recent trends in suburban fires. Our focus has been on working cooperatively to identify appropriate actions that can be taken to accurately and effectively address correctable fire safety issues, and ways to limit fire spread into the building interior.  

Below are the complete, unedited interview segments of VSI’s spokesperson, Kate Offringa, clarifying a number of facts about vinyl siding and fire safety, many of which were missing from NBC4’s report:

HBN Profiteers Are At It Again …

Not long ago, representatives at Healthy Building Network (HBN) could say anything they pleased with complete impunity. No one stood up and held their writers publicly accountable on the accuracy of their statements, or exposed the potential hidden motives driving their activities.  

And until now, readers of their work – architects, engineers and building professionals – have had no reason to question HBN’s dishonest positions against PVC, which the group has perpetuated for well over a decade.

Not anymore. HBN’s lies and distortions about PVC are exactly the reason why we created Vinyl Verified.  To confront disinformation in the online discourse – and expose adversaries for who, or what, they really are.

HBN’s lies and distortions about PVC are exactly the reason why we created Vinyl Verified.  To confront disinformation in the online discourse – and expose adversaries for who, or what, they really are.

HBN’s representatives desperately want the public to believe the group exists to right wrongs, and reveal dark truths about the chemical industry, as part of an honorable crusade to improve sustainability within the building industry.

But what many probably don’t know is that HBN’s operations resemble that of a business. A quick look at HBN’s website reveals the services it sells – ranging anywhere from business consulting, licensing and technology offerings, and speaking opportunities.   

Just like any business, HBN had to find an untapped market and differentiate itself from its competition. The group’s founder, Bill Walsh – a Greenpeace veteran – described how HBN endeavored to distinguish itself back in 2005:

“Over time, the focus of our work at Greenpeace shifted from combating toxic waste to advocating for cleaner products and production. Because of the huge environmental impact of buildings and building materials, I thought the green-building movement deserved more attention than it was getting from the environmental community, so I started HBN as a way to meet that need.” HBN Founder Bill Walsh, Grist, 2.22.05. 

Businesses often struggle during the early years, and Mr. Walsh knew he had to focus precious start-up energy and resources.  So he followed the Greenpeace playbook and selected a single industry to attack, one with a reputation for delivering convenience, safety, life cycle responsibility and other benefits to improve consumer lives:  

“Right now, stopping the use of polyvinyl chloride plastic, also known as PVC or vinyl, is our top priority.  We use a variety of strategies, from technical consultations to grassroots activism, to convince consumers, especially those with major commercial interests, to alter their purchasing habits.” – HBN Founder Bill Walsh, Grist, 2.22.05

To win clients, HBN had to convey the impression it had a specialized expertise.  And thus began HBN’s decade-long distortion effort to mislead the public about PVC.

To win clients, HBN had to convey the impression it had a specialized expertise.  And thus began HBN’s decade-long distortion effort to mislead the public about PVC. To build its brand, it started a website and published countless articles and reports containing factually inaccurate and misguided content about PVC – which the media would reflexively report without ever questioning the quality of its research orintegrity of its findings. And to enhance its credibility, it forged alliances with other for-profit organizations, such as the architect firm Perkins + Will, whose business model is built on disparaging durable, life-cycle-proven materials, such as PVC, to land clients – and turn a profit. 

With its business network in place, a press corps willing to cover anything it says, and a hostile climate of misinformation surrounding PVC which it helped engineer, it was time to cash in.  HBN would use all three to its advantage to sell its consulting services and deceive companies into believing PVC, among other materials, should be avoided.

Everyone has the right to his or her own viewpoint. And everyone has the right to earn a living, as long as it’s within the law.  But those who mislead the public do not have the right to be taken seriously – and that’s especially true when representatives at HBN continue to intentionally conflate the facts to perpetuate misinformation about the topics they address. 

Which brings us to HBN’s latest premise, written by Bill Walsh himself, that PVC is somehow singularly responsible for most chlorine production in the United States – and that asbestos is an essential component of the chlorine production process. More HBN dishonesty. …  But then again, irresponsible positions that distort reader impressions about our industry is what we’ve come to expect from them.

Let’s get into it:

The vinyl industry does not drive chlorine demand. The vinyl chain uses approximately 40% of all U.S. chlorine production.  The remaining two-thirds are used in applications that have nothing to do with PVC.  HBN routinely misrepresents this, and wants observers to think it’s far more than that. But these facts are indisputable. 

PVC resin production uses only ~ 20 percent of the yield from U.S. chlor-alkali production.  Which means that the other 80 percent is used in a host of other products, such as pulp and paper, food additives, pharmaceuticals, textiles, metals processing, water treatment and other applications.  HBN won’t tell you this.

Asbestos is NOT  an essential component of all chlorine production. HBN conceals from readers that there are two chlorine manufacturing methodsOne method, which a growing number of companies are utilizing today, requires no asbestos whatsoever.  Of course, we never hear this from Mr. Walsheither … And we likely never will, because it’s another inconvenient fact that doesn’t comply with its one-track mindset against our industry. 

PVC manufacturers did NOT argue that asbestos should not be regulated under the 2016 Toxic Substances Contract Act. The Vinyl Institute has never made any such argument or proposal.

We’ll say it again: PVC does NOT rely on mercury cell chlorine technology: There is only one chlorine plant in the U.S. that uses this technology (not two as HBN asserts).  And this plant accounts for less than 1% of all U.S. chlorine capacity. More importantly, U.S. producers of vinyl chloride monomer do not rely on this facility – or any international facility for that matter – to meet their needs.

FACT: China transitioned from mercury cell chlorine technology 15 years ago.  And while mercury containing catalysts are still used for the conversion of acetylene to vinyl chloride, China has agreed to cut its use in half by 2020 in compliance with the UN Minamata Convention Requirements.  These are additional facts HBN likes to hide because they don’t fit the group’s anti-PVC narrative.

 Mr. Walsh hasn’t done his research on trona. The notion that caustic can be made from the mineral trona, as proposed by Mr. Walsh, is clearly not based on any life cycle, health, or environmental study.  According to a 2013 Wyoming Public Radio report, trona mines are among the biggest emitters of volatile organic hydrocarbons (VOCs), hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the state.  In fact, as much as 1% of these mines’ exhaust is methane that is ventilated in order to make the work environment in the mine safer for the miners.  Methane is a powerful green-house gas, and is an unregulated and un-inventoried emission from the trona mining operation according to the Wyoming DEQ.

 FACT: PVC products improve building sustainability. Building products made with PVC are selected because they provide safe, long lasting, and affordable solutions for enhancing a building’s sustainability footprint.  The sustainable attributes of vinyl building products have been proven by many life cycle assessment analyses.  And PVC materials often have a lower carbon footprint and are less energy intensive than many competing materials. 

Notwithstanding HBN’s financial motives, the group has taken issue with our public characterization that the group has an anti-PVC agenda.  Yet Mr. Walsh appears to have made that case on his own:

“I’ve got this collection of voodoo dolls representing the flacks from the Vinyl Institute … Each day, after reading their latest press release on the (sic) PR Newswire, I adjust the pins."

Does that sound like anyone committed to advancing the facts and promoting the truth about PVC?