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Pvc: A Critical Analysis on the Issues and Solutions of Vinyl Based on the Film "blue Vinyl"

Essay by   •  February 15, 2012  •  Essay  •  1,484 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,821 Views

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In "Blue Vinyl", the production and disposal of polyvinyl chloride is depicted as having far-reaching consequences. These costs and benefits, while affecting people in the market transaction such as manufacturers and homeowners, also affect people outside of the transaction. This creates a "negative externality" by impacting local residents and factory workers not directly involved in the selling or purchasing of vinyl products. In order to address this market failure, "Blue Vinyl" recommends alternative construction materials instead of vinyl, and a public education program about the effects of producing and using the material. While this may seem beneficial, those solutions are short-sighted and do not fully address the problem. Instead, I believe two other steps are necessary to address vinyl's staggering social cost. First, tax incentives should be applied to promote the proper recycling of vinyl. Second, PVC companies should use "carbon credits" to pay for their production of air pollution, incentivizing vinyl factories to use safer manufacturing processes. However, the cost of "carbon credits" may make it more difficult for companies to turn a profit, causing them to hire fewer workers. In a struggling American economy, this drawback is significant as job creation is imperative.

The costs and benefits of vinyl chloride production, while seen outside the market transaction, greatly affect people within the market, such as vinyl manufacturers and homeowners. During the film, vinyl company representatives market their product as a "cheap, reliable, and fundamental" way of modern life. According to the representatives, the production of cheap vinyl building material is not only beneficial to their bottom line, but to homeowners as well. Because the cost of vinyl production is so low, charity groups, sponsored by the vinyl companies themselves, are able to build houses using vinyl for people who would otherwise be homeless.

While the short-term economic benefits of vinyl production for manufacturers and homeowners are clear, the long term social costs of "the all vinyl house" paint a more sinister picture for homeowners. Chloride, a component of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is a harmful chemical. It can be found in vinyl products such as siding, and window sills. When left alone, PVC siding is harmless. However, when exposed to high levels of heat, such as fire, the chlorine in PVC escapes, creating an acid smoke sometimes kills before the flames even reach the person. While the benefits of vinyl chloride to the manufacturers and homeowners are great, the costs of using the material have the potential to take lives. In addition, the costs of PVC have an even greater impact on people outside the market transaction--the local residents and factory workers, living and working in close proximity to vinyl chloride factories.

The production of vinyl chloride, according to "Blue Vinyl", has the greatest impact on local residents and factory workers, as well as other people living outside of the market transaction, thus creating a negative externality. One of the most significant threats from vinyl chloride production to local residents, lies in the air pollution around the factories. Byproducts of vinyl production include chlorinated gases and small amounts of dioxin. Local vinyl companies claim that the amount of dioxin and chlorinated gas is so small that there are no health risks. Amid growing frustration and health issues, local residents decided to take the issue of dangerous industrial byproducts into their own hands and had the air quality tested themselves. The lab results showed much higher concentrations of chlorinated gases and dioxin than the factories revealed. In addition to air pollution, ground water pollution for residents living in proximity to vinyl chloride production also is a health hazard. So great was the danger, that the PVC plant agreed to buy local residents' houses as long as they agreed not to sue the company for any health problems that developed later. While vinyl negatively impacts local residents, the people most vulnerable to harmful chemical exposure are the factory workers themselves.

In "Blue Vinyl", a wife describes her deceased husband, an ex-Conco employee, saying, "When he couldn't use his right, left arm, or legs...when I couldn't hear his voice anymore." Exposed to large amounts of dioxin, even at the legal limit of 1ppm (part per million) factory fabricators are still developing Angiosarcoma (liver cancer). These negative effects of dioxin and chlorinated gas exposure on residents and factory fabricators are undeniable. This creates a type of market failure known as a "negative externality". In a negative externality, people outside of the

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