Aluminum Window Maker Says Vinyl is Dangerous; Industry Groups Push Back

April 26th, 2016 by Trey Barrineau

A South Florida manufacturer of aluminum windows says vinyl should be phased out of fenestration products because it’s dangerous for homeowners and the environment — despite the material’s widespread use in construction, healthcare and municipal water systems.

“There are still vinyl windows being manufactured and it simply isn’t safe, not only for the homeowners and the manufacturing workers but also the environment,” said Abe Lopez, the president of SIW Impact Windows and Door of Delray Beach, Fla., in a press release last week. “We have a responsibility as manufacturers of consumer products to produce effective but safe and environmentally friendly products. Vinyl is quite simply the antipode of an ethical, sustainable, green building material.”

Lopez’s release has met with strong pushback from the door and window industry.

“Phasing out the most popular framed window in the U.S. residential marketplace is not feasible,” said Rich Walker, the president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA). “Vinyl windows are a good choice for homeowners, builders and contractors. Their low maintenance, durability and thermal performance are the primary reasons for their acceptance and growth.”

According to Walker, the 2014-2015 AAMA U.S. National Statistical Review and Forecast shows that 31.6 million vinyl windows were shipped in 2014, comprising 69 percent of all prime windows in the country. Nearly 40 million vinyl windows are expected to be shipped in 2017.

Dick Doyle, the president and CEO of the Vinyl Institute, challenged Lopez’s claims about vinyl’s adverse health effects.

“I find it amazing that these outlandish statements still persist in 2016 with all the efforts that the vinyl industry, EPA and other government agencies have undertaken to make vinyl windows and hundreds of other vinyl products safe for consumers,” Doyle said. “Clearly, Mr. Lopez is either completely misinformed or is advancing a misguided marketing campaign at SIW Impact Windows and Doors. Vinyl is the material of choice for our nation’s drinking water systems, it is used to maintain our nation’s blood supply, and vinyl windows and doors help maintain energy-efficient homes.”

The Vinyl Institute recently launched a separate website, Vinyl Verified,  to challenge what it calls inaccuracies, omissions and flawed data regarding vinyl.

Lopez compared groups like AAMA and the Vinyl Institute to shills for big tobacco companies who hid research on the dangers of cigarettes for years.

“I think  their decisions are influenced by big business or lack of knowledge,” he said in an e-mail to DWM. “It was not too long ago that no one would publicly say cigarettes were bad for you. I still think the consumer should be given full disclosure of the chemicals on their windows and the harm they can do for their health, and let the consumer make a decision.”

Lopez’s press release touched on the health dangers of vinyl chloride, a precursor to the final product, polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Vinyl chloride is a toxic material, but the Vinyl Institute says emissions have fallen 83 percent per pound produced since 1987, according to statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program and the American Chemical Society’s Resin Report Data. During that time, vinyl production increased 82 percent. Unit emissions of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) have also declined by 83 percent since 1987. VCM is a flammable gas that’s another precursor to PVC.

Lopez also claims that the release of dioxin is the biggest danger related to vinyl production. According to the EPA, “dioxins are highly toxic and persistent in the environment and accumulate exponentially as they move up the food chain. They may be transported long distances.”

However, the Vinyl Institute says dioxin emissions have fallen 86 percent in the vinyl industry since 2000, according to EPA TRI air and water data. “To add context to these numbers, the U.S. vinyl industry emits about 6 to 7 grams of dioxin per year, equivalent in weight to about 100 grains of salt,” George Middleton wrote in a May 2015 post on the Vinyl Institute’s website. “This is a tiny fraction of the dioxin that annually comes from diesel truck exhaust and emissions from backyard trash burning.”

Middleton is a member of American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI); a Certified Green Globes Assessor (GGA) with the Green Building Initiative; and a LEED Accredited Professional in building design and construction with the U.S. Green Building Council.

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5 comments
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  1. I first read this wunderkind’s post when he submitted it to a LinkedIn group I manage. Not only did I not allow the misinformation to be published, I banned the author from the site, since it violated one of the basic rules that led to the formation of the group in the first place. I only had to read the first part of the first paragraph to know I was not going to waste any further time or energy reading the rest. The information presented is nonsense, and insulting to the industry. I’ve seen better, more accurate research presented in a high school term paper.

  2. Does this guy have any idea what goes into the production of Aluminum?

    Energy consumption, and subsequent pollution derived from mining Bauxite, to producing ingots, to profile extrusion, to chemicals used to clean, paint, or anodize aluminum for use in fenestration products surely has a greater impact on the environment than PVC production.
    PVC is more economical to recycle, as it relates to fenestration products,

  3. And Carlo shows exactly why discussions like the one in question have been banned from the (Window and Door Manufacturing Professionals) LinkedIn Group. As soon as we start throwing stones at other materials, we all lose. At this point in our industry’s evolution, I would think that we could all agree that each framing material has its assets and its liabilities. There is no perfect framing material. There is no framing material that is going to cause widespread damage and destruction. Already, too much energy has been wasted discussing this sophomoric screed.

  4. I agree that there is no perfect framing material, but disagree that this topic should be put under the rug. Look at any data other than that provided by Vynil Institute for example the EPA or ATSDR (Agency for toxic substances and disease registry) you would understand my concern . The public need to known the toxins vinyl produce specially in areas that have extreme hot temperature. This may push the industry into looking for a better sustainable material.

  5. Sorry, Abe, you are completely misinformed, and are doing a great disservice not only to the window industry as whole, but to your customers aw well. Case in point: in this silly, pointless article, the author fails to point out that, by the way, by the time the vinyl combusts, the carpets, furniture, walls and everything combustible is already involved, so anything or anyone who is still in the house would have perished long ago. Perhaps the opinion piece would have some merit if it actually pointed to a case where a single human being or pet was actually harmed by vinyl windows. But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of a salacious story? Why should common sense be included in this idiotic screed?

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