PVC Pipes

Photo credit: Pexels photo by Brett Sayles


Plastic pipe is a key component of residential plumbing systems. Up to 70% of homes in the US contain plastic pipe.2 The downside is that most plastic pipe is composed of PVC, polyvinyl chloride, which is considered by many an unsafe material.


Toxin Breakdown


PVC is a harmful material because it is a known carcinogen and is associated with toxins such as dioxins, phthalates, and ethylene dichloride.1


  • Dioxins are harmful because they do not break down. They remain in the ecosystem.1 Dioxins are introduced during manufacturing and when PVC is burned or placed in landfills.4
  • Phthalates are toxic substances that can leach into our food and water supplies. They pose the highest health risk to infants, as their bodies cannot process them.2
  • Ethylene dichloride, inhaled at high concentrations, can impact our respiratory and nervous systems.1 It is introduced during the production of PVC.4

Take a look at this previous newsletter for a deeper look at the dangers of PVC.


Lasting Effects


PVC pipes in homes built before 1977 were found to leach polyvinyl chloride into drinking water at levels above the maximum allowed contaminant level.2 The Clean Water Act of 1977 provided amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to require the industry to meet the standards for specified toxic pollutants.6 According to the EPA, maximum contaminant level (MCL) is the highest level of a contaminant allowed in drinking water. The current MCL of vinyl chloride is of 0.002 mg/L. Long-term exposure at levels above pose an increased risk to cancer, as cited by the EPA.3



It is imperative to be proactive against the use of PVC pipes. Follow the recommendations below:

✓ Use alternative materials to PVC pipes such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE)  and Polypropylene pipes (PP).7

✓ Choose PVC pipes marked with codes NSF-PW and NSF-61. These pipes are compliant to meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards for potable or drinking water.2

✓ For renovation projects with existing PVC pipes, install manual or automatic flush valves to reduce concentrations of vinyl chloride.2

✓ For renovation projects, use proper PPE and ventilation for protection against any PVC-containing materials.4