Safety Concerns

Changing products and emerging health and safety issues make designing piping systems a continuing challenge. Here are some key issues that should inform design and construction of piping systems, as well as summaries of recent news and research.

Building and construction industry professionals increasingly prioritize materials and products that minimize environmental impact in production and after disposal, which represent the most significant impacts for many building materials. They also consider the resilience of the material in a given application to ensure long product life.

Overview: Environmental & Resilience Concerns​

Reviewing and comparing the sustainability of piping materials requires careful gathering and analysis of data. Companies who are committed to driving innovation in this area offer transparent access to their work documenting the environmental impacts of their products and improving their processes. Here’s what we know today:
  • Plastic is made almost exclusively from fossil fuels, using fracked natural gas as a major source. It then is refined into a variety of polymers with chemical additives to manage performance. At end of life, virtually all (95%+) plastics get landfilled or burned. To date, the plastics industry has published little data showing progress against its long-stated commitments to moving toward bio-based feedstock or increasing recycling.
  • Copper mining and smelting have significant impact on the environment. At end of life, however, copper is widely recycled and has the ability to be transformed back into its original material. The industry has established a system to require improvements, called Copper Mark, that measures contributions toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Iron mining has impacts similar to other metal production, but cast-iron pipe produced in the U.S. comes entirely from recycled sources. Domestic foundries have committed significant resources to scrubbing air emissions and reducing water consumption, and iron and steel are one of the building industry’s most recycled materials.

Related Articles