PVC trim board products like AZEK are often touted as a low-maintenance alternative to wood trim for interior and exterior walls, in both residential and commercial building projects. But what’s the real cost of choosing this synthetic material over one that is natural and renewable? It’s true that PVC trim board, which is engineered to look like wood, is long-lasting and impervious to rot and insects. But so is Eastern White Pine – without the negative environmental effects. While some builders try to pass PVC off as ‘green’ due to its durability, in truth, it’s anything but.
Polynvinyl Chloride has become a very common building material over the last half-century, with over 30 million tons of it used every year. According to the Healthy Building Network, which calls it “the antithesis of a green building material,” PVC poses major environmental and human health hazards throughout its manufacturing, use and disposal. Its production represents the largest use of chlorine gases in the world, a group of chemicals that have come under scrutiny in recent decades due to the unusually severe hazards they tend to pose.
Many of the chemical mixtures used to make PVC haven’t yet been identified or tested, and some of these chemicals have been found to bioaccumulate, meaning they build up in the tissue of living things. The basic materials, additives and byproducts of PVC have been found to cause cancer, disruption of the endocrine system, reproductive impairment, impaired child development, neurotoxicity and immune system suppression. The Healthy Building Network is calling for PVC to be phased out as a building material.
On the other hand, Eastern White Pine is a renewable resource grown in sustainably managed mixed hardwood forests that maintain the balance of natural ecosystems and provide homes for a wide variety of wildlife. This inexpensive and truly eco-friendly building material, which is commonly used for interior and exterior trim board, has many of the benefits of PVC without the serious drawbacks. A traditional building material used in historic Northeastern United States homes for centuries, Eastern White Pine boards provide greater stability and less movement than any other product on the market after being acclimated properly to its new environment.