The Winchester Star Misleads Readers on Vinyl Windows

The Winchester Star Misleads Readers on Vinyl Windows

Media outlets have an obligation to the readers they serve to publish balanced stories on the issues they cover. When they don’t live up to these standards, and only present a one-sided view, they – at a minimum – have a responsibility to publish an opposing perspective, typically in the form of a letter-to-the-editor, so that readers have all of the facts, and can decide for themselves who to believe.  

The Winchester Star failed on both counts.

Last month, the Star ran an article about building code changes for Old Town Winchester that included several false and misleading quotes about vinyl windows from Kevin Walker, the Chairman of Winchester’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR).

Susan Wade from the VInyl Institute (VI) submitted a letter-to-the-editor to the Star correcting Mr. Walker’s claims to Adrian O’Connor, the Star’s editorial page editor.

Adrian O’Connor never responded.

We followed up.

Still, no answer.

We made every effort to allow the Star to correct the record. They ignored us.

There was a time years ago when media outlets held all of the cards. Reporters were able to say anything, or quote anyone, about PVC material, where little regard was given to providing readers accurate or balanced information on vinyl issues. And when media outlets ignored attempts to correct published misstatements via letters to the editor, like the case here with the Winchester Star, industry had little recourse to make sure the facts prevailed.

Not anymore.  With the Vinyl Verified platform, we can do it ourselves.  It’s why the recent interaction with the Winchester Star (or lack thereof) further justifies the work we do to expose media bias, when it occurs, about vinyl material.  

We believe Star readers have a right to know the truth about vinyl windows. Since the Star declined to present a balanced view of the facts, in the spirit of transparency and accuracy, we are posting the letter the Star didn’t want you to see that corrects Mr. Walker’s erroneous claims.

What’s Old Sometimes Isn’t New Again … And That’s AOK

By Ned Monroe, President and CEO of the Vinyl Institute

It’s perfectly reasonable for historic city districts, like Old Town Winchester, to require the use of period materials in new construction and existing building repairs. But it’s irresponsible when City officials who oversee those projects publicly distort the facts and mislead citizens about modern materials and products, such as vinyl windows, in the process.

The Chairman of Winchester’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR), Kevin Walker, did just that in a recent article. He claimed vinyl window manufacturing is “highly toxic” – yet if he ever visited a production facility, he’d know that the industry operates under some of the strictest regulations in the world to ensure workplace safety.  

Advancements in building materials, including vinyl, have brought enormous benefits to homeowners and builders alike. Vinyl windows are lightweight, easy to install, provide unsurpassed durability, are cost-effective, and can be customized in their design to accommodate anyone’s taste.

Historic projects should use materials of their time. And if Mr. Walker would prefer to use windows with lead counterweights in his home, that’s entirely his prerogative.

But it doesn’t give him the right to publicly disparage other attractive, modern-day materials, like vinyl windows, which provide practical, reliable, and affordable options for homeowners.

Firefighters Deserve Facts on Environmental Health

Firefighters Deserve Facts on Environmental Health


Our nation’s firefighters have earned the right, without exception, to know what the potential environmental health risks are that impact their community. As with any important public health issue, it’s critical the facts prevail, and that credible science guides the debate in determining potential actions necessary to ensure their safety.  

Firefighter leaders, rightfully, are taking an active role on these important issues. As a representative voice of thousands of courageous men and women, they play an important part in raising awareness for firefighter health and advocating to fix the root cause of the health problems confronting this community.

Recently, however, some firefighter leaders have associated firefighter health issues with factors that have not been credibly linked. They have singled out the use of plastic piping in buildings, including PVC, claiming that emissions from these materials create a greater risk to firefighters when they’re burned, despite scientific evidence showing other causes may be to blame.  

Facts show that all combustible materials, including wood, will yield toxic and carcinogenic byproducts when involved in an accidental fire. And the evidence points to other causes – including diesel engine exhaust – as contributing to cancers in firefighters.

What’s more, certain metallic alternatives to vinyl piping actually increase the risk of flame spread.  Ductile iron pipe, for example, has an asphaltic coating that’s highly flammable.  By contrast, PVC pipe doesn’t spread flames, not to mention it is lighter weight, far easier to use, doesn’t require welding – and outlasts competing materials.

That’s why PVC pipe has been the material of choice for builders in residential and commercial construction for decades, because it’s known for delivering safe, reliable and affordable service.

Firefighter leaders have a unique opportunity to speak out, call for action -- and work passionately, and collaboratively, to help fix firefighter health problems. And they have every right in the world to demand answers for their colleagues who face dangerous conditions each and every day on the job. 

Likewise, those on the front lines deserve to have the facts regarding the environmental risks they face in order to best protect their health and safety.


Topeka, Kansas: A Case Study in Pipe Durability

Topeka, Kansas: A Case Study in Pipe Durability

The Topeka Capital-Journal recently published a story on the large number of water main breaks that the city has endured in recent years. Topeka’s water system relies on 870 miles of pipe. Since the 1940s, Topeka has diversified its system by adding ductile iron pipe and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe. Today, the system is 39% cast iron pipe, 27% ductile iron pipe, and 25% PVC pipe (figure 1).


Percentage of Pipe Materials Used

Figure 1: Topeka's system of pipes is about 39% cast iron, 27% ductile iron, and 25% PVC, with the remaining made of various other materials.

Of the city’s water main breaks, approximately 66.8% were from cast iron pipes, 18.4% were from ductile iron pipes, and a mere 4.5% were from PVC pipes (figure 2).

Percentage of Pipe Breaks by Material

Figure 2: In Topeka, 66.8% of breaks occur from cast iron pipes, 18.4% from ductile iron pipes, and 4.5% from PVC pipes.

In Topeka, all iron pipes have a failure rate that is more than 18x the failure rate of PVC (figure 3). Ductile iron pipe devotees (and their lobbyists) will tell you that ductile iron is a great improvement over cast iron. And yet, ductile iron pipe still fails at more than 4x the rate of PVC pipe (figure 4).

Pipe Breaks: Iron V. PVC (%)

Figure 3: All iron pipe accounts for more than 18x as many breaks as PVC pipe.

Pipe Breaks: Ductile Iron v. PVC (%)

Figure 4: Ductile iron pipe accounts for more than 4x as many breaks as PVC pipe despite the fact that ductile iron pipe makes up almost the same share of the system (27%) as PVC pipe (25%).

In fact, Topeka has seen a significant number of ductile iron pipes grossly underperforming their expected life span:

Ductile iron pipe should have a lifespan of 100 years, but [Deputy Director of Utilities Braxton Copley] said the city has seen a large number of breaks in pipes that are only 40 to 50 years old.
— Topeka Capital-Journal

The ductile iron pipe industry wants the public to believe that its product is more reliable than PVC but the facts show otherwise. As demonstrated by this case study, PVC is clearly the more durable material.

Living Building Chronicle Perpetuates Activist Rhetoric on PVC

Living Building Chronicle Perpetuates Activist Rhetoric on PVC

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.

Setting the Record Straight on Solar Distortion and Vinyl Siding

Setting the Record Straight on Solar Distortion and Vinyl Siding

We here at Vinyl Verified monitor press coverage about vinyl matters every day to ensure the facts about the material prevail throughout the public discourse.  

Recently, we noticed a sudden spike in stories containing misleading and inaccurate information about “solar distortion,” a so-called phenomenon where reflected sunlight from a specific type of modern window can melt vinyl siding on nearby structures.  

A closer look revealed that many of these segments were exactly the same. They featured the same script and video footage in their stories. And further research showed that a similar report containing the same misinformation was previously aired by numerous news outlets in 2015 and again in 2017.  

It turns out these stations simply re-aired a pre-packaged segment provided to them by an outside organization, where reporters failed to do any original research or fact-checking of their own.

That’s not sound journalism. And when it misleads the public, it does a disservice to viewers.

We’ll take this opportunity to clarify the facts.     

The Facts on Solar Distortion

Solar distortion happens when sunlight is concentrated and reflected by modern, energy efficient window panes onto a neighbor’s property. These newer windows reflect sunlight at a much higher intensity than older window designs. Heat generated by that reflection can cause damage to a wide variety of materials, including furniture, vehicles, and–under rare circumstances–vinyl siding.

The chances of solar distortion affecting your home? Extremely small. Vinyl siding has been the most popular siding option, due to its durability and affordability, for almost two decades, and only a very small fraction of houses with vinyl siding have been impacted by solar distortion. And it’s nowhere near the epidemic the press desperately wants viewers to believe.  

It takes a unique and specific set of circumstances for solar distortion to impact vinyl siding. If your house has not been affected in the past, it is not likely to be affected in the future. This can change, however, if windows are replaced (either on your home or your neighbor’s) with ones that are more likely to concentrate the sunlight, or if something that blocked sunlight (like a tree) is removed.

How the Media Gets it Wrong

The important takeaway here is that this “phenomenon” is not caused in any way by vinyl siding. It’s caused by newer “low-e” windows that are installed on nearby structures where the light happens to reflect in a particular way. And that key fact is often overlooked or under-emphasized by reporters who cover this issue.   

As we noted above, news stations across the country are running a pre-packaged, four-year-old report on solar distortion provided to them by Angie’s List. Angie’s List pitched the same video to news outlets back in 2015. Now media outlets are airing the exact same advertisement “story” again – without doing any fact-checking of their own. Our research shows that this exact same segment, word-for-word, ran on almost a dozen stations in 8 cities.  

The segment is a recycled, air-time-filler that spends its entirety critiquing vinyl siding. And that’s odd, because Angie’s List has, in the past, touted the many benefits of vinyl on other occasions. The recent report claims there is some ambiguity as to who is at fault when windows damage vinyl siding. But in every case, the evidence is overwhelming that energy efficient windows are at fault for causing the damage.

Contractors and homeowners alike choose vinyl siding because it’s affordable, stylish, durable and efficient. Consumers deserve to have the facts about the material, instead of being subjected to misleading claims by news outlets that have done no original reporting of their own on the issue.

What the Environmental Working Group isn’t telling you about Vinyl Products

What the Environmental Working Group isn’t telling you about Vinyl Products

In the last few weeks, EWG  has put out a series of alarmist, inaccurate, and misleading posts about vinyl products. In each of these pieces, EWG has claimed, without question or substantiation, that vinyl products are harmful and should be avoided. But this approach of immediately sounding the alarm on certain products without explaining whether and what health risks actually exist lacks the scientific rigor to which EWG claims to aspire.

Correcting the Record on Vinyl AND Phthalates

WDIO-TV (Duluth, MN) made irresponsible claims about vinyl and phthalates in a segment that aired on 12/6/18.

We’re here to expose their alarmist rhetoric and share the facts.