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The Pros and Cons of PVC Ceiling Tiles

Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC for short, is a plastic that has been subject to rigorous debate in the last 20 years or so. More now than ever, both sides of the debate have become harshly polarized and compromise seems far from reality.

PVC plastic is the second largest volume produced plastic in the world today. It is manufactured worldwide, producing billions of pounds of resin yearly. The material is very versatile, and is used predominantly in construction, but also in food packaging, household items, automobiles, and even children's toys. It is because of this wide range of uses that it has become so hard for anyone to agree on anything.


Arguments Against PVC

On one side of the debate, there is a growing list of ecologically-minded groups and individuals that believe that PVC is the most dangerous plastic (and, in fact, the most dangerous synthetic material) widely available to the public. There are many good reasons for this.

First of all, polyvinyl chloride is made from chlorine, a very dangerous chemical when not controlled properly. There have been some accidents in PVC manufacturing facilities that have sickened the local population, and even left an unfortunate few terminally ill. These injuries and illnesses are predominantly based around an accidental release of chlorine.

Second, while PVC is a very versatile plastic, it sometimes requires additives to give it certain desired characteristics. For instance, to soften PVC for use in shower curtains and food packaging, special chemicals named phthalates must be added. These chemicals allow the PVC to bend and remain soft, but there is quite a bit of controversy regarding their possible effects on human health.

Third, many people believe PVC is non-recyclable, and will in fact contaminate good batches of recyclable plastic when improperly disposed of. This can be true, when enough plasticizers and additives are used in the manufacture of a PVC based product. Plasticizers and other additives can constitute up to 60% of a softened PVC product, making for a very impure plastic. This impure plastic can cause havoc in some forms of recycling, so PVC needs to be disposed of responsibly.


Arguments For PVC

On the other side of this debate, industry representatives and proponents for PVC feel that their plastic of choice has received a bad rap. Understandably, their support is many times inspired by their jobs in the industry. People that work with and around PVC tend to find the plastic very non-threatening. It is also the livelihood of millions of people worldwide, from the manufacturers of the plastic to the retailers of PVC-based products. Because of their integration into the PVC industry, these folks tend to take the defense, having to thwart attacks by environmental activists on their source of income. These folks feel very differently about the issues surrounding PVC.

Chlorine is indeed a dangerous chemical, but it is a chemical used by many different industries. There are relatively very few deaths or injuries relating to Chlorine exposure versus many other materials and chemicals. Proponents of PVC ask people to consider car accidents, gasoline and oil fires, and many other chemical accidents in manufacturing facilities world wide. Chlorine for the manufacture of PVC is no worse for us than gasoline or bug spray. Accidents happen, but they are few and far between.

The science surrounding plasticizers in PVC is by no means conclusive, and is based highly on studies of animals with little relation to humans. While this is sound science, the results are often portrayed in whatever fashion is necessary to promote the agenda in question. PVC advocates and industry representatives often point this out in a effort to prevent the public from jumping to conclusions. Unfortunately, in an argument such as this one, there is no fact or proof that can clearly be referenced to clear things up.

When PVC is plasticized, it does become hard to recycle. However, PVC fans like to point out that heavily plasticized PVC is not nearly as common as rigid, or unplasticized PVC. Rigid PVC contains very few to no plasticizers, and very few additives at all. This type of PVC is very easy to recycle, and many companies will even BUY it to process and resell. Rigid PVC is most used in construction materials, which are the number one end-use for PVC in any form. Several countries in Europe have even adopted a new classification of PVC, called uPVC (short for unplasticized polyvinyl chloride), to distinguish between heavily plasticized, and in may cases banned PVC products, and their much easier to recycle cousin of the unplasticized variety.


Make Educated Decisions

There are always two sides to every argument, and the PVC debate is no different. PVC can be a boon or a bane, depending on its use. However, it is important to distinguish between what is fact and what is speculation, so that people can make good choices about the materials they use. Should the US ban PVC altogether? Probably not. It has many good uses and few effective substitutes. Should we allow the unchecked use of questionable materials and chemicals? Of course not. But somewhere in between these two options is a compromise that will allow us to utilize the benefits of this versatile material and keep our children, ourselves, and our environment safe.

Most importantly, do your own research and make educated decisions!


Ceilume Ceiling Tiles and PVC

Here at Ceilume, we are always doing our best to use the safest materials, not just for our own sake but for the sake of our customers, their families, and for all the people with whom we share this planet. If we're going to make our products from PVC, we want to be absolutely sure that it won't cause any harm to our customers, or ourselves. We believe that a healthy home is a happy home, and that's why we offer our ceiling tiles in Rigid PVC, a material that's been GREENGUARD Gold Certified which considers safety factors to account for sensitive individuals (such as children and the elderly), and ensures that a product is acceptable for use in environments such as schools and healthcare facilities.

We are always on the lookout for ways to improve the quality of our products, which is why are actively researching and testing new materials that will make our ceiling tiles even safer and even better for Planet Earth. We have developed a ceiling tile made from recycled soda bottles and are researching materials made from corn and silk. At Ceilume Ceiling Tiles, our goal is to make your ceiling look better without impacting your health or our planet.

Guiding Principle #5: Be humorous. Even ceiling tiles can be entertaining.