I read "Plastic Battles" in the January issue, and would like to offer some facts about PVC that may interest your readers.

There are no documented cases of angiosarcoma from vinyl chloride monomer in vinyl workers since the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration enacted regulations in 1975. These regulations reduced workplace exposure and led to the reengineering of vinyl production operations in the United States. Today, these are essentially closed-loop production systems. EPA estimates the industry has nearly eliminated vinyl chloride monomer emissions since the 1970s.

According to EPA, vinyl's dioxin emissions constitute less than 0.5% of the total annual emissions. Dioxin emissions in the United States have decreased by more than 90% since 1987. During that time, production and use of vinyl has more than tripled. Interesting to note that the primary contributors of dioxin to the environment include forest fires, commercial and residential trash burning, burning wood in fireplaces, vehicle emissions, and manufacturing other building products not made of vinyl.

About 18 million pounds of post-consumer vinyl are diverted from landfills and recycled into second-generation products each year. In fact, vinyl accounts for less than 0.6% of landfill waste by weight. Post-industrial scrap, trim, and off-spec material recycled from vinyl production adds up to more than 1 billion pounds per year and is also recycled into secondary vinyl products.

As shown in tests by the American Society for Testing of Materials, vinyl is self-extinguishing, does not support combustion, and reduces fire spread. Vinyl is one of the few materials that meet stringent National Fire Protection Association requirements for insulating electrical and data transmission cables, including in plenum applications.

A six-year European Commission study, released in 2004, on the life-cycle assessment of PVC and of principle competing materials stated, "Vinyl is generally better for the environment than alternative materials."

PVC is made from a combination of natural gas, which is a fossil fuel, and 57% salt. This is why it is called polyvinyl chloride, since chlorine is 57% of the base component. Once chlorine is processed into vinyl, it is chemically locked into the product more tightly than it was in salt. Whether it is recycled, put in a landfill, or incinerated, chlorine gas is not released into the atmosphere. Most other plastics are 100% hydrocarbon based.

There are more facts and figures supporting PVC and its use as a building product today and why it should get more serious consideration as a green product. However, environmentalists would rather continue their witch-hunt on a material that has been around for more than 60 years than listen to these facts.

–John Pace, president and COO Wolfpac Technologies Inc., Leetsdale, Pa.

It Takes One to Know One

Congratulations on your article, "Dismissed," regarding hiring veterans. I suppose the author felt a need to present both sides of an issue by including the comment from the anonymous individual who said, "In the military, you're managed by fear," and "They don't do anything without being told, and all of their initiative has been taken away from them." Nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, this is a misconception that the general population easily buys as fewer and fewer serve their country. I strongly suspect that someone who never served in the military made this comment.

When our military became an all-volunteer force, human resources management became a big issue. We had the luxury of managing with a certain amount of fear when draftees populated the ranks, and there was an endless supply of people. The military now has to compete for labor just like any business.

There are no institutions in the world that bestow its people with as much responsibility at such an early age as the U.S. military. Nor does anyone expect or reward initiative as much as our military. One thing we do very well is to push leadership down to the lowest levels. That ability to think and decide at the squad level is what has let us defeat centrally controlled enemies in numerous conflicts.

Initiative and action are deeply ingrained into the Navy and Marine Corps. This goes back to the days of sailing ships when commanders were not tethered to the shore by communication lines. Officers and their crews had to make decisions and act without anyone telling them what to do. Modern-day sailors and Marines pride themselves in carrying on this tradition.

For those who still believe that veterans "don't do anything without being told," try telling that to the young corporal who has led a rifle squad in Iraq, or the young sailor who has led a boarding party in the Persian Gulf.

–(Ret.) Navy Capt. S.M. Junkins, McShan (Ala.) Lumber

Junkins' letter prompted this note:

Capt. Junkins is 100% on the money. I was in the Navy for six years, riding fast-attack submarines during the Cold War. The Navy sets high goals for its new "employees" and encourages them to search out excellence at every turn. Even the most junior member of a crew may have to train new members on his or her specialty or system. Excellence and teamwork are what make our Navy the finest in the world.

By the way: there are not too many places on the planet where an 18-year-old seaman is at the helm of a $1 billion submarine that was paid for with your tax dollars. Think about it.

–David Hampson, manager The Contractor Yard, Chesapeake, Va.

'Fuzzy' Is Quite Clear

I enjoyed Mike Butts' "Fuzzy Logic" article in the January issue. I agree with his assessment and have been preaching the same sermon for some time now. I have found it difficult to convince many of my managers that now is the very time to focus on training, customer service, and hiring the right people.

The message appears admittedly counterintuitive and illogical, which I believe is precisely why I've found it so difficult to get across to the mostly literal-minded leadership in my market. I've recommended this article to the attention of the managers in my market.

–Anthony Vinson, market trainer, Wolseley North American Division, Atlanta

Speak Out!

Send your comments to editor Craig Webb: [email protected] or One Thomas Circle, N.W., Suite 600 Washington, D.C. 20005. (Letters may be edited for clarity and space.)