The health risks outweigh the benefits of using plastic pipes in drinking water systems.

The town of Paradise in California experienced near-total destruction due to wildfires in 2018. Almost all the buildings in the town were destroyed, and those who returned to their homes found a new danger lurking. Benzene, a carcinogenic chemical, was found in the drinking water, due to the plastic water mains and other plastic parts used in the water system, which could not withstand the heat of the fire. This demonstrates the dangers of plastic addiction in critical infrastructure.

Similarly, in August 2020, a lightning facility fire in central California destroyed 11 kilometers of pipe made of plastic that transported potable water from storage tanks to critical regional water mains. Authorities tested water samples and found elevated levels of volatile organic compounds. To rebuild the water line, burying it at least two feet underground, which could cost up to $60 million, would be the most effective solution. However, burying plastic pipes in the ground still does not guarantee fire safety.

Research has shown that the heat generated by wildfires can cause the degradation of plastics and chemicals, leaching into water sources and causing harm to human health and the environment. While the group representing manufacturers of plastic pipes has published studies indicating that their products are safe, we cannot rely on their claims to prevent disasters.

As state and local leaders debate how best to spend billions in federal government funding for clean water infrastructure, it is crucial to make clear that introducing more plastic into our lives is unacceptable. We must stay away from the hazards of plastic, no matter how cheap it may seem. The cost to our health and safety is not justified by the discounts electric utilities may expect from our continued reliance on plastics and the volatile chemicals used in their production.

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