Plastic piping OK’d for use instead of copper


SACRAMENTO – California home builders on Monday won the right to use
less-expensive plastic water piping instead of copper, ending a
two-decade-long battle against groups that warned of plastic’s
potential health hazards.

Developers called the decision by the California Building Standards
Commission a victory for consumers because it will reduce plumbing
costs in new homes and when doing retrofits.

"Forty-nine other states use the product. We now have a 25-year history
of this product in use," said Dennis Beddard, general counsel of the
California Department of Housing and Community Development, which
drafted the regulation. "It clearly demonstrates this product can be
used safely."

Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as CPVC piping, is a
sturdy material that – unlike most plastics – holds up even when filled
with hot water. That makes it an ideal substitute for the metal pipes
traditionally used in homes. It also costs several thousand dollars
less in a typical home than copper piping.

But environmental concerns and fire hazards prompted state regulators
to ban its use in drinking-water lines throughout the state.

The building industry has lobbied the commission since 1982 to change
that. Home builders won a partial victory in 2000 when California
regulators allowed limited use of plastic piping. They gave builders
the right to install it in areas where soil or water conditions might
prematurely corrode copper.

Environmental and consumer groups have argued that chemicals in the
type of plastic piping preferred by the industry are dangerous,
leaching into the soil and contaminating water that eventually runs out
the faucet.

Labor groups had sought to protect workers from the fumes given off by
the glue used to fit the pipes together, while fire officials warned of
the toxic fumes CPVC emits when it burns.

"From leaching toxic chemicals to rupturing prematurely to fire
hazards, CPVC is associated with impacts that are hazardous," said Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California.

Arkansas restricts the use of CPVC pipes, while the cities of New York,
Chicago and Nacogdoches, Texas, ban it, according to the Safe Building
Materials Coalition, a California group that represents environmental,
consumer, labor and firefighting groups that oppose the material’s
widespread use.