Vinyl Siding Health Concerns


Though vinyl siding is a popular choice among homeowners due to its cost, durability, and easy maintenance, it comes with health risks for the occupants to a house. Therefore, a homeowner should carefully consider these risks when deciding on which siding type to use. Despite the perceived dangers of vinyl siding, some experts believe these risks are minimal and that vinyl is a good option for homeowners.

Vinyl Siding Byproducts and Their Dangers

Vinyl siding is made primarily of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a durable and cheap plastic often used in construction. When PVC is heated up or burned, such as in very hot weather or a fire, it will release formaldehyde, hydrogen chloride, and dioxin into the air, all of which are gases that may cause illness and are known carcinogens. In case of a fire, it is possible for these gases to kill the occupants of a home before the fire reaches them. In some cases, firefighters have allowed homes to burn to avoid toxic exposure from burning vinyl siding.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided numerous storm victims with temporary trailers made using PVC. As a result, a number of victims experienced respiratory problems and nosebleeds. Critics accused FEMA of placing innocent people into “toxic tin cans.” Scientific studies conducted to determine the reason for these illnesses found that formaldehyde was a likely culprit.

Similarly, following the Iowa floods of 2008, many residents of FEMA-provided trailers, constructed with PVC, complained of headaches and respiratory problems.

In the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China, many people were temporarily housed in mobile homes that were made with a material emitting high levels of formaldehyde; many women who lived in these trailers had miscarriages. These homes emitted five times the formaldehyde allowed by regulations in China. Chou Weiwei, the President of Shenyang Women and Infant Hospital, stated that formaldehyde could cause abnormal births and heart disease among newborns.

Dioxin has been linked to numerous illnesses such as organ disease, cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, and chloracne. It is still not known exactly at what threshold dioxin becomes dangerous. In 1976, an accident at a manufacturing plant at Seveso, Italy caused massive dioxin exposure to nearby populations. Numerous cases of chloracne, which disfigures the skin of the face with cysts, were reported, and decades later an increase in breast cancer was found. However, in this case the exposure of dioxin well exceeded the levels to which typical homeowners using vinyl siding are exposed.

Environmental Concerns of PVC

Dioxin, which is released when PVC is burned, is known to bioaccumulate because it is fat-soluble. Meat and dairy products that contain dioxin will pass on the dioxin to humans. For this reason many environmentally-conscious homeowners choose other forms of siding that they believe to be better for the environment.

The manufacturing of PVC releases nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, both of which pollute the environment. Nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere has been linked to an increase in respiratory problems, and sulfur dioxide is a cause of smog and acid rain.

Mold and Mildew from Improper Installation

If vinyl siding is not sealed or installed properly it may allow moisture, due to humidity or rainwater, to reach the walls behind the siding, thus causing rot. Rotting walls may foster the growth of mold and mildew, which may trigger asthma attacks, particularly in children. Therefore, if a homeowner chooses vinyl siding for his or her home, it is important that a reputable contractor be chosen for the installation. The siding should be caulked periodically to prevent moisture from penetrating the walls.

Some Experts Support Vinyl Siding for Houses

When properly installed, vinyl siding offers good weather resistance. Vinyl siding is also generally cheaper to install compared to brick, fiber cement, and wood siding. Vinyl siding can be added to a home in a variety of textures and colors, adding to its beauty.

Despite the health and environmental concerns raised about vinyl siding, some proponents of vinyl siding, such as those at the Vinyl Siding Institute, a trade association, believe the dangers are exaggerated and that vinyl siding is a good option for homeowners. The Vinyl Siding Institute asserts that vinyl siding may prevent fires due to its fire-retardant properties. Vinyl siding will not ignite until it reaches 400C, whereas wood will ignite at significantly lower temperatures. When ignited, vinyl siding spreads flames relatively slowly.

Advocates of vinyl siding emphasize that PVC production is the cause of only 2% of the dioxin released into the environment, citing the EPA. According to the EPA, the manufacturing of cement creates more dioxin than the manufacturing of PVC. Vinyl siding can be recycled if a homeowner wishes to recycle it. Vinyl siding also does not require painting as does wood siding, and thus does not contaminate the environment with lead and other additives used in paint.

Supporters of vinyl siding also mention that installers of brick and fiber cement siding may be at risk for silicosis, a serious respiratory illness caused by repeated exposure to silica dust, whereas vinyl siding installers are not at risk.

Studies Support Insulated Vinyl Siding

2008 and 2009 studies conducted by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Newport Ventures, a research and consulting firm, found that insulated vinyl siding kept heat within homes much better than did a competing fiber cement product. These studies relied on thermal imaging, which demonstrated the efficacy of insulated vinyl siding in keeping a home warm. Researchers concluded that the superiority of insulated vinyl siding would save homeowners $56 per year in gas and electricity expenses, benefiting both the environment and the pocketbooks of consumers.

Conclusion

Although there are concerns among some environmentalists and scientists about the chemical byproducts of PVC, particularly in its manufacture, vinyl siding remains a very popular option for homeowners due to its benefits. Some experts point to certain environmental and safety advantages of vinyl siding compared to other types of siding. Given such a wide range of perspectives, homeowners must carefully evaluate the benefits and risks of vinyl siding and ensure that reputable professionals are hired for proper installation if they choose it.


Written by

Emilio has built a reputation as a content marketing whiz and also has an intuitive understanding of consumer buying behaviors. This has allowed him to deliver great content for our readers, ensuring they get useful information and the help they are seeking for their projects.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a reply

Close [X]

SidingMagazine.com Terms of Use - Homeowners & Property Owners
This website and SidingMagazine.com's services are offered to you, conditioned on your acceptance without modification, of the following terms, conditions, and notices contained in this agreement (the "Terms of Use"). Your use of this website constitutes your agreement to all such terms, conditions, and notices in effect at such time. At our discretion we may change or amend these Terms by posting a revised version on the SidingMagazine.com website. At SidingMagazine.com we are committed to delivering a smooth online user experience and work hard to build an outstanding network of professional installers we can refer to. We reserve the right to forward any and all information provided by you to a service professional interested in contacting you to discuss your project needs. By using SidingMagazine.com's contractor referral service, you acknowledge that SidingMagazine.com is not acting as your representative, general contractor, or advisor. We’re simply trying to help you connect to professional contractors in your area that might, at your discretion, be worth talking to about your siding project. It is your sole responsibility to interview, negotiate with, and select a contractor. If you think it is necessary, please consider consulting with an attorney, insurance professional, or other advisor regarding contracts, agreements, permits, and other job documentation. We do not guarantee we will always successfully match you to a service professional. We do not guarantee that any or all service professionals contacted are either able or willing to complete your project. We make no guarantees or representations regarding the skills of such service professional or the quality of the job that he or she may perform for you if you elect to hire him or her. SidingMagazine.com does not guarantee or warrant the pricing or discounts that a service professional may offer you. To contract with a service professional, you must work directly with the service professional. The service professionals are not employees or agents of SidingMagazine.com, nor is SidingMagazine.com an agent of the service professionals. Your rights under contracts you enter into with service professionals are governed by the details of that agreement and by applicable federal, state, provincial and local laws. YOU HEREBY AGREE TO RELEASE SIDINGMAGAZINE.COM (AND OUR OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, AFFILIATES, ADVERTISERS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS AND ANY OTHER PERSON, FIRM, OR ENTITY) OF EVERY KIND OR NATURE, SUSPECTED AND UNSUSPECTED, KNOWN AND UNKNOWN, AND DISCLOSED OR UNDISCLOSED, ARISING OUT OF OR IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH SUCH DISPUTES AND YOUR DEALINGS WITH SERVICE PROFESSIONALS. INFORMATION YOU PROVIDE TO US. By providing personal information to us through a “service request”, “free estimate”, “get a price”, “get a quote” form or any variation of the like, you are requesting to be contacted, and you expressly consent to being contacted by one or more service providers by any method including but not limited to phone, fax, email, or mail even if you are listed on any federal, state, provincial or other applicable "Do Not Call" list. Any websites linked to from SidingMagazine.com are not under the control of SidingMagazine.com and SidingMagazine.com is not responsible for the contents of any linked site. Your use of such third party linked sites is governed by the terms and conditions, and privacy policies, of such linked sites. A link from SidingMagazine.com to another website does not denote endorsement by SidingMagazine.com of said website. GENERAL PROVISIONS. You acknowledge and agree that the SidingMagazine.com services are provided to you on an "AS IS" basis without any warranty whatsoever, and your sole and exclusive remedy, and SidingMagazine.com's sole obligation to you or any third party for any claim arising out of your use of the SidingMagazine.com services or the SidingMagazine.com Web site, is that you are free to discontinue use of the SidingMagazine.com website at any time. SIDINGMAGAZINE.COM EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, AND YOU AGREE THAT SIDINGMAGAZINE.COM SHALL HAVE NO LIABILITY FOR DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, EXEMPLARY OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES (EVEN IF SIDINGMAGAZINE.COM HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES) ARISING OUT OF THIS AGREEMENT OR ANY CONSEQUENCES WHICH FLOW FROM IT. SOME STATES AND PROVINCES DO NOT ALLOW LIMITATIONS ON OR EXCLUSION OF INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES. IN SUCH STATES AND PROVINCES, THE ABOVE EXCLUSIONS MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU. The Terms and Conditions will insure to the benefit of SidingMagazine.com's successors, assigns and licensees. If any provision of these Terms and Conditions shall be deemed unlawful, void or unenforceable, for any reason, by any court of competent jurisdiction that provision shall be modified in order to make it enforceable, while maintaining the spirit of the provision. Alternatively, if modification is not possible, such provision shall be stricken and shall not affect the validity and enforceability of the remaining terms. The failure of SidingMagazine.com to exercise or enforce any right or provision of the Terms and Conditions shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. You agree that regardless of any statute or law to the contrary, any claim or cause of action arising out of or related to use of the SidingMagazine.com services or the Terms and Conditions must be filed within one (1) year after such claim or cause of action arose or be forever barred. The section titles in the Terms and Conditions are for convenience only and have no legal or contractual effect. These Terms and Conditions are governed by the laws of the State of Massachusetts (MA) as such laws are applied to agreements entered into and to be performed entirely in the State of MA and between MA residents. You agree to submit to jurisdiction in MA and that any claim arising out of or related to these Terms and Conditions will be brought solely in a court in Middlesex County, MA. These Terms and Conditions constitute the entire agreement between you and SidingMagazine.com and supersede all oral and written negotiations or representations of the parties with respect to the subject matter hereof. These Terms and Conditions may not be modified or amended other than by an agreement signed by both parties. © 1999-2012 SidingMagazine.com, Inc. All rights reserved.