A recent piece by Living Building Chronicle, published by the Kendeda Fund, contains a series of broad mischaracterizations about PVC that require correction.  What’s interesting is that the author, Ken Edelstein, goes to great lengths to promote a PVC material competitor, raising reasonable questions regarding a possible hidden motivation driving this story. Regardless, we’ll take the opportunity to ensure the facts are reflected for the record.

Edelstein resurfaces a number of baseless arguments that agenda-driven extremists have used for years to try and deceive the public about PVC. He misleads readers by conveying the irresponsible impression that PVC piping or conduit products themselves are a human health hazard when there is no truth to the assertion.

The author contends that electrical contractors “go with PVC because that’s what they’re familiar with[.]” That uninformed view also distorts the facts and misrepresents the overwhelming advantages of PVC compared with competing materials. Other non-PVC conduit must use additive flame retardants in order to achieve the performance required by product safety standards that PVC conduit conforms with. PVC is inherently resistant to ignition and the spread of flame, and no other PVC electrical conduit competitor can make that claim.  And it’s a safe bet electrical contractors opt for PVC over other materials for that very reason.

PVC’s unsurpassed strength and stiffness also make the material a go-to choice for contractors.  Electricians and communications/television network installers are able to pull cables after PVC conduit has been installed – because the material can withstand it.

There are other reasons, too.  PVC is more affordable, and can be easily coupled, making it an ideal material for use in tight building spaces. Electrical conduit is a great application of PVC, as well as CPVC material, and it’s resistant to outside signal transmission interference, provides better protection for cables from external hazards and offers the best “liquid tight” resistance to water moisture that can seep into walls.

PVC electrical conduit is also far more recyclable than other materials -- making it a far more sustainable choice. So it’s puzzling to see Living Building Chronicle critique PVC and endorse other non-recyclable electrical conduit options when the very goal of its “Living Building Challenge” is to encourage builders to use more environmentally-friendly materials.        

Of course, none of these facts were included in Mr. Edelstein’s article.  Readers are right to wonder why.