Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC as most commonly known was discovered by sheer accident in the 19th century. First in 1835 by Henri Victor Regnault and then in 1872 by Eugen Baumann. But it wasn’t until 1926 when the B.F. Goodrich Company developed the method to plasticize PVC by blending a number of additives with it that it really took hold. This allowed the PVC to be processed much more easily while increasing the flexibility and strength of it. Opening the doors for widespread commercial use across the globe.
Classified as a thermoplastic polymer, PVC is the third most widely produced plastic in the world today behind only polyethylene and polypropylene. It is widely used in many applications because it is durable, easy to manipulate and most of all its cheap. PVC production is estimated to exceed 35 million tons by the year 2015.
PVC’s intrinsic properties make it highly valued for a wide variety of applications. It has great resistance to chemicals making it the plastic of choice for many household construction needs. It’s also used for varies types of piping applications to clothing to the insulation of electric wire and cables.
With all its great attributes, PVC does have some drawbacks. In recent years it has been argued that PVC holds some health and safety issues. The argument is that vinyl products contain chemicals and additives that can leach out of the product. Soft baby toys have been made for years and there are concerns that these additives can leach out on the hands of children or into their mouths when chewing on them as well as many other daily used products. In addition its also been proven that in fires PVC-coated wires can form Hydrogen chloride (HCI) Fumes. Thus, in applications where smoke is a major hazard PVC-free wire insulation is preferred; such as low smoke zero halogen (LSZH) insulations or Plenum rated cables.