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Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)


Vinyl is polyvinyl chloride and a type of plastic. Very durable and strong, over half of all the PVC manufactured worldwide is used in construction. It is cheap, produced easily and lightweight. Wood, clay and concrete have all in recent years begun to be replaced by PVC.

PVC in its individual form is rigid and stiff. It does not gain flexibility until plasticizers are added to it, the most common of which is phthalates. PVC is a common plastic with many, many applications: vinyl siding, window frames, records (hence, vinyl records), plumbing, clothing and upholstery to name a few.

PVC Development

PVC was first discovered in the 19 th century on two separate occasions. In 1838 Henri Victor Regnault and in 1872 Eugen Baumann found a white solid floating in flasks of vinyl chloride that had been left in the sun. However, it was not until the early 20 th century that public development of polyvinyl chloride began. Russian chemist Ivan Ostromislensky, in a partnership with Fritz Klatte, a German (both of the German chemical company Griesheim-Elektron) began the application of PVC to commercial products. Finally, in 1926, Waldo Semon of B.F. Goodrich came up with a process of giving PVC more flexibility with various additives. This plasticized PVC proved financially successful and became the precursor of the polyvinyl chloride used today.

Properties of PVC

Some health concerns go along with PVC. If used properly, there is no known threat from the substance. However, the additives and softeners utilized in making the material more flexible can be harmful. Thought not directly poisonous, it is possible that chemicals could leech out of vinyl products.

The resin identification code, which shows what type of plastic a product is made out of, is 3.

To produce PVC, vinyl chloride must be present first as a solution in water. It is then put into a high pressure chamber whose temperature is 50-70 degrees Celsius. The water is present to remove and absorb heat. PVC will eventually form in increasingly larger pieces until the process is topped. It is then removed from the water, dried and forms a white powder. This is now PVC and can be melted and shaped for nearly any purpose.

PVC Safety

PVC is synthetic and must be disposed of properly. Recycling is one way in which this can be done. PVC can either be melted down and then reshaped or mechanically crushed and used in its most basic form, be it as artificial filler for pillows and bedding or packing material. PVC is also able to be incinerated. It produces no more toxins then burning wood, but when it is destroyed in this manner pollution control equipment is used. PVC, when put into a controlled landfill proposes no serious threat to the environment.

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