Plastic Pipe is Not the Consumer's Choice

Plastic Pipe is Not the Consumer's Choice
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Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is increasingly under attack, as consumers demand that the dangerous plastic be eliminated from their homes. In response, the PVC industry has embarked on a reckless campaign to persuade legislators and municipal decision-makers to replace aging water infrastructure with PVC pipe.

The plastic industry’s lobby is trying to mislead consumers into believing that PVC is a better choice than Ductile Iron Pipe by citing a narrow band of plastic lobby advocates. The fact is, there is no stronger pipe material in existence, nor one with a better proven track record of longevity and cost-effectiveness, than Ductile Iron Pipe. To suggest otherwise is just wrong. 

Meanwhile, PVC raises serious issues, including questions about its reliability and whether PVC imported from China contains lead. According to the National Institutes of Health: “Because of PVC’s heavy chlorine content, dioxins are released during the manufacturing, burning, or landfilling of PVC. Exposure to dioxins can cause reproductive, developmental, and other health problems, and at least one dioxin is classified as a carcinogen.” Another salient question about PVC is what happens when it is used in the ground. Research suggests that PVC pipe fails relatively quickly under stress, and the higher the stress, the more quickly it fails. 

The evolution of Ductile Iron Pipe has its roots in the cast-iron pipe that was first laid in the early 1800s, and much of it continues to serve reliably. As anyone who has inherited a cast-iron skillet knows, there is no safer, more reliable material to have in the kitchen. But iron pipe has continued to innovate, giving us today’s Ductile Iron Pipe, which, according to peer-reviewed and independent research, lasts up to twice as long as PVC. And Ductile Iron Pipe is made from up to 98 percent recycled content, and, once its service life is complete, the pipe is entirely recyclable. 

The bottom line is that Ductile Iron Pipe is the most economical and the safest choice for our communities. We don’t need to look any further than Washington, D.C.’s, own backyard. There, local utility leaders decided to choose Ductile Iron Pipe to best serve their customers now and for generations to come. 

The plastics industry is fighting a pitched battle against consumers who have made clear they do not want PVC in their homes. As a result, the plastics industry — in a transparent effort to sell more product — is trying to poison the well against what peer-reviewed research has shown to be a superior pipe. PVC promoters may feel their product has earned a seat at the table where infrastructure decisions are made, but the fact is it cannot provide a safe, long-lasting, economical solution for the next 100 or more years of water delivery and management. Only Ductile Iron Pipe can do that.

Jon R. Runge, CAE, is the president of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association.

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