Ed and I recently watched “Blue Vinyl.” It’s a quirky little film with a big impact. Judy is upset that her parents have taken the wood siding off of their home and embarks on a years-long crusade to get them to remove the vinyl, along the way discovering that vinyl siding is a very dangerous product. Throughout the entire life cycle of vinyl (PVC) production, from production to disposal, it creates problems. Workers are exposed to the raw vinyl chloride, which causes various cancers, including cancer in the airway and lungs, and the rare angiosarcoma of the liver. The production also releases dioxin, which is a known human carcinogen. This means that all the factory workers are at risk for dioxin exposure. The actual vinyl siding on your home, or the PVC in your children’s toys, are safe as far as we know right now. However, when exposed to high amounts of heat, say when your house catches fire or when your child puts her Barbie in the microwave, more dioxin can be released, and sometimes vinyl chloride is released. When vinyl siding is disposed of, it is rarely recycled and usually sits in a landfill to never biodegrade. I applaud Judith Hefland for her well-made, funny, and eye-opening film.
On a more personal note, when Ed and I began discussing siding options for our home a few years ago, there was no question in my mind that I wanted to have vinyl siding. It’s easy to install, durable, virtually maintenance free, and inexpensive. Ed wanted wood siding, because he saw it as traditional and beautiful. After many arguments and discussions, I gave in to wood siding, with the condition that I could pick the color. True, wood took a LONG time to install, requires a lot of maintenance including painting it every 5-10 years, and was much more expensive, but it is traditional and beautiful. Also, the life cycle of wood siding includes a tree growing, taking in pollutants and releasing oxygen. In terms of disposal, wood siding can be reused (“salvaged”), burned for heat, or allowed to naturally biodegrade. Of course there are environmental issues involved with wood siding as well, from how and where it is harvested to what kind of paint is used. But for the most part, wood is the best option for siding, as Judy concludes in her film. I have to say that I am so happy Ed convinced me not to use vinyl siding on our house. Let’s see if I still feel that way the next time we have to paint!