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In an effort to reduce the risks associated with the myriad of carcinogens and toxins released from the use of plastic piping, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the United Association of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and Service Techs is calling on developers, builders and code officials to reduce and restrict the use of plastics installed in buildings.
In a joint statement signed by Mark McManus, general president of the UA and IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger, the unions say that although plastic piping (PVC, CPVC, ABS) is appropriate for some uses, the codes should prohibit the installation of plastic piping for drain, waste, and vent plumbing in hotels and residential buildings greater than two stories in height. It should also prohibit plastic pipe in critical patient occupancies such as hospitals, nursing facilities, high rise residential structures, and healthcare facilities.
"The Model Plumbing Codes barred plastic plumbing pipes from high rise buildings for decades but have been weakened by special interests which jeopardizes health and safety," says the statement. "Cancer rates amongst fire fighters have dramatically increased due to exposure to toxins from plastics and other building materials used in construction."
The statement says plastic pipe emits toxic gases when burned and burns at a rate which allows fire to spread faster and easier creating an immediate hazard for responders and residents. Plastic pipe, along with the joining adhesives, poses significant health risks to workers during construction as well.
Additionally, plastic water piping can also leach hydrocarbons and chemicals into drinking water. A recent analysis of plastic pipe material variations, including PEX, PE, HDPE, PP, CPVC and PV, identified more than 150 leachable substances and many of them unregulated.
“The IAFF has been in the forefront opposing the expanded use of plastics and other cancer-causing products in construction and other uses,” said Schaitberger. “We know that when plastics burn they emit carcinogens which causes occupational illnesses and deaths among our members and pose risks to the public as well.”
The UA represents over 340,000 members engaged in the plumbing and piping industry. “Just as firefighters have always been there to protect us in emergencies, the plumbers and pipefitters have been quietly and successfully protecting the health and safety of the nation for almost 100 years.” stated McManus. “There are plenty of safe, sustainable and recyclable materials available today that don’t pose health risks to workers or the general public and this initiative is about choosing the safest and most durable option in product selection."
The IAFF represents over 316,000 professional fire fighters and EMS providers across North America. “Anything that reduces the use of plastics in construction is a step forward in terms of public safety. We are proud to stand with the UA in educating stakeholders and the general public on this issue,” Schaitberger continued