PVC - Durable solution or long-lasting problem?

We appreciated being contacted for and quoted in the March 17 article, "So durable, it's hard to get rid of," but the article was fraught with misleading allegations that deserve correction.

Contrary to the radical opinions put forth by the vinyl attackers, which the reporter seemed to buy, vinyl is no more difficult than other materials to manage at the end of its useful life. Dioxin emissions from municipal and medical incinerators are way down, to grams per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, even though this nation incinerates millions of tons of municipal/medical waste each year. So, vinyl can't be a big problem there. Landfills are lined and capped with vinyl liners, so it can't be problem there, either. And, more than 18 million pounds of postconsumer vinyl are recycled each year, so it can't be that hard to do.

It's true that vinyl has a lower recycling rate than plastics typically captured in municipal blue-box programs, but that's because most vinyl goes into long-life building products - pipe, windows, siding, flooring, etc. - still in service doing their job!

We expected more fairness from The Christian Science Monitor.
Tim Burns
President, The Vinyl Institute
Arlington, Va.

Your review of the hazards of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic should help readers understand that plastics are not all the same. On a societal scale we need to take a sober look at the array of materials that we have cleverly, though not always wisely, wrought from petroleum and seriously begin to prioritize among them.

PVC is made from carcinogens, exposing workers and neighborhoods. When burned in landfills or poorly designed and operated incinerators, PVC combustion creates dioxins, furans, and other hazardous chemicals. Most PVC is loaded with toxic metals and pigments. The presence of PVC in the waste stream makes recycling of other plastics extremely problematic.

Of course, the Vinyl Institute defends their material. Tobacco companies defend tobacco. We expect it.

Because of the scale of human activities, the life cycle of materials that we use stresses regional and planetary systems in alarming ways.

We should feel a sense of urgency about the need for moving away from problematic materials like PVC and moving on to the next generation of materials that we can easily recycle or that will cycle through natural systems as nutrients when no longer used by people.

One day in the future, people are likely to look back at PVC and ask, "What were they thinking?"
Ted Schettler, M.D., M.P.H.
Science and Environmental Health Network and Boston Medical Center

Finding the right college fit

The article about the importance of fit in a college (" 'No thanks, Harvard. I found a better fit,' " April 12) was truly a breath of fresh spring air. As an independent counselor, I know this is the time of year when students and families are trying to make the best decision about which college to attend. A reminder about the importance of finding the best fit for a student could not have come at a better time.

The article's point about the media's lack of interest in fit is also noteworthy. While fit might not sell massive copies of magazines, it is the single best piece of advice counselors give to every student they see.

With high schools reviewing next year's budgets, principals would do well to remember who gives students this best advice, and avoid cuts in counseling that could swell already bloated caseloads.
Patrick J. O'Connor
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

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