That is the latest claim by the Wood Window Alliance in their latest report and infographic. They have recently launched a campaign to promote the benefits of timber as a fenestration material, and the negatives, as they see it, of using PVCu.
They have produced an extensive infographic charting a number of issues with PVCu windows and doors. You can see that here: http://www.woodwindowalliance.com/professional/infographic
I guess the most eye catching of the points included in the infographic was their stated threat to human health. When you read “PVCu is made from vinyl chloride monomer, a class 1 human carcinogen” and “PVC is on the banned or precautionary list or world leading organisations like Google, Nike, Volvo and Apple” you do take note.
Is it time to take heed? Or do we take this with a pinch of salt?
This report comes at a time when the evolution of PVCu brings it ever closer to the aesthetics and style of timber windows. It’s advancement is a direct threat to timber. Remember, timber was the clear king of fenestration products only a few decades ago. When PVCu first arrived in the 70’s, it took off with such pace that it quickly dethroned timber and it has never been able to catch up since.
In that time, PVCu has become much more advanced when it comes to looks, security and energy efficiency. It has improved it’s manufacturing, bettered the standards of the product, and with the burst of the “timber alternative” niche of products, it becomes ever more difficult for timber to regain any sort of significant market share.
The health claims in the report are ones that do catch your attention and shouldn’t be dismissed right away. But I do questions the timing of this report. We’re in a period where PVCu window and door advancement is encroaching ever more into timber window territory. I have no doubt that modern day “timber alternative” windows and doors are stealing some percentage of sales away from the timber window market. Hence the WWA’s campaign to fight back against PVCu.
That being said, if there are health concerns we have either been ignoring as an industry or have been burying our heads about, then perhaps we do need to tackle them head on. Still, I have to question, if PVCu is really as bad as the WWA state, why has there not been any legislature movement in this country and around the world to ban it as a substance? Are we just being dumb as a society and choosing to ignore it? Are the risks not as bad as some say?
When we found out asbestos was so bad for human health, it was banned, and there is now strict health and safety laws in place to make sure we handle it safely if we come into contact with it. If PVCu was as dangerous as this infographic makes out, why have we not seen similar legislation implemented yet?
Fighting an open battle
Lets be clear here, this is an attack from the timber part of the window industry on the PVCu part of the industry. The gloves are off. This is an open battle and this is one of the routes the WWA has chosen to go down in order to fight it.
In some ways, you can see why they have published this research. They need to fight their corner. Timber has never really regained any sort of significant share of the residential market place since the introduction of PVCu. With PVCu now encroaching in other areas still heavily dominated by timber, like conservation areas and listed buildings, the timber industry needed to push back, and they are doing so with environmental and health claims.
But lets not pretend that the PVCu industry hasn’t been quietly sitting back either. This part of the industry has made great attempts to re-style their products to look more and more like timber, to great effect. There are some stunning PVCu products out there which do a fantastic job of looking like wood. To the point now where many are now being accepted in conservation areas and even in some listed buildings. Whilst this has been good for the world of PVCu in terms of sales and positive press, it has eaten away into the last areas where timber has always been strong.
This is going to be an open battle for years to come. Despite the health warnings in this report, I cannot see PVCu being suddenly derailed and thrown on the heap. I see no signs of that in any legislature process and and nothing at grass roots level. The PVCu part of the industry will continue to make strides on the aesthetic front, energy efficiency front and sustainability front. The timber part of the industry will continue to fund reports denouncing PVCu as a fenestration material. But I would argue that the time and money is better spent on trying to develop timber products and encouraging home owners to consider them as a viable option.
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