Using pvc, abs, or other pipe in earthbox container...?

jasong31May 12, 2008

Ok Ive read that pvc is a big no no when used in a homemade earthbox. So I tried using the cpvc pipe. Problem is it doesnt come in a big enough size. I can only get 1 inch pipe. I used it on 3 earthboxes, but it is a royal pain in the rear to water these boxes because the pipe is too small...

So I was thinking about using abs pipe... But is that toxic too?

What are you guys using? Any tips?

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Plastics are coded according to safety and recycling. I don't know the number of ABS but I am going to try to find out.

You should look at the number in the center of the recycle symbol on plastic to see if it is safe for food and drinks. Many water bottles are #7 plastic and as you can see below that is a toxic plastic. The following might help with this.

Plastics to Avoid

#3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) commonly contains di-2-ehtylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), an endocrine disruptor and probable human carcinogen, as a softener.

#6 Polystyrene (PS) may leach styrene, a possible endocrine disruptor and human carcinogen, into water and food.

#7 Polycarbonate contains the hormone disruptor bisphenol-A, which can leach out as bottles age, are heated or exposed to acidic solutions. Unfortunately, #7 is used in most baby bottles and five-gallon water jugs and in many reusable sports bottles.

Better Plastics

#1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), the most common and easily recycled plastic for bottled water and soft drinks, has also been considered the most safe. However, one 2003 Italian study found that the amount of DEHP in bottled spring water increased after 9 months of storage in a PET bottle.

#2 High Density Polyethylene

#4 Low Density Polyethylene

#5 Polypropylene

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 11:17AM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

I used the (slightly) more expensive ABS 1.5" pipe for my filler tube. It has a recycle #9. My Rubbermaid EarthTainers have a recycle #4. My Endocrine damage is more attributable to excess beer consumption.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 11:46AM
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Raybo... Ive looked online and have yet to see what the #9 lists as... biggest ive seen it go to is #7 like above...

I might be making a lil bit of a big deal out of this... but i just dont want to grow glowing maters!!!


    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 11:53AM
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ABS is coded for drain, waste, and vent (DWV) only. It is a combination of resins Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) that is a thermoplastic derived from acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene.

National Toxicology Program (NTP) carcinogenic classification: Reasonably Anticipated to be a Human Carcinogen

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) carcinogenic classification: Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans

NIOSH Immediately Dangerous To Life or Health Concentration (IDLH): 85 ppm

Potential symptoms: Asphyxia; limb weakness, dyspnea, burning sensation in the throat; dizziness and impaired judgment; cyanosis and nausea; collapse, irregular breathing, seizures, cardiac arrest; low grade anemia, leukocytosis, and mild jaundice; eye irritation; headache; sneezing; skin blisters, scaling dermatitis; (carcinogenic).

Health Effects: Reproductive Hazards (HE5); CNS Disturbances (HE7); Chronic (Cumulative) Toxicity; Asphyxiant (HE17); LD50 (oral, rat) 82 mg/kg.

Affected organs: Cardiovascular system, liver, CNS, skin, lung and bowel; blood, respiratory system, and eyes.

The health effects caused by exposure to 1,3-Butadiene can be split into two categories: acute and chronic. Acute exposures can further be split into low and high doses. Acute low exposures may cause irritation to the eyes, throat, nose, and lungs. Frostbite may also occur with skin exposure. Acute high exposures may cause damage to the central nervous system or cause symptoms such as distorted blurred vision, vertigo, general tiredness, decreased blood pressure, headache, nausea, decreased pulse rate, and fainting. Chronic effects caused by exposure to 1,3-Butadiene are controversial. Several human epidemiological studies have shown an increase in cardiovascular diseases and cancer. However, due to the small numbers of cancers and confounding factors such as smoking, and simultaneous exposure to benzene and styrene, a true causal relationship cannot be established. Experiments involving chronic exposures to mice and rats have shown a strong causal relationship between 1,3-Butadiene exposure and cancer. Animal studies have also shown reproductive and developmental problems. Based on human and animal studies, the EPA has classified 1,3-Butadiene as a known human carcinogen. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has given 1,3-Butadiene a rating of A2, suspected human carcinogen.

The principal health effects due to styrene exposure involve the central nervous system. These effects include subjective complaints of headache, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, malaise, difficulty in concentrating, and a feeling of intoxication. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies styrene as a potential human carcinogen. Styrene is primarily a synthetic chemical that is used extensively in the manufacture of plastics, rubber, and resins. About 90,000 workers, including those who make boats, tubs, and showers, are potentially exposed to styrene. It is also known as vinylbenzene, ethenylbenzene, cinnamene, or phenylethylene.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 11:54AM
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Is PVC what your standard sprinkler lines are made out of?
Thats the stuff I used.
I'm not worried.
Heck, what about the cheap Rubbermaid/Steralite totes we are using??????

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 1:04PM
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My Steralite totes are #5. Some homes and businesses use PVC for waterlines including drinking water. On the other hand, some areas have laws restricting it to only waste lines. ABS seems to me to be the worst of the options. I won't be using it. We must decide for ourselves what we are going to worry about. It seems that almost everything is dangerous to our health and well-being in one way or another. We keep driving cars and trucks.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 1:14PM
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I just got off the phone with a plumbing supply Co. here in NW Florida. Regular old PVC meets building codes in Florida for cold water potable water supply pipe. In fact, most residential building in Florida uses PVC from main trunkline into the residence. The warnings you see about PVC are the toxins released during its manufacture or if it's burned. Much ado about nothing, I believe.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 1:39PM
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And there you have it...

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 1:46PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

lime coke,

Thanks for your technical insight on the topic. I selected ABS as a safer substitute for the PVC (after reading one of you posts a while ago on the PVC concerns). I specifically avoided numbers 3, 6, and 7; and when I saw Recycle #9 on the ABS pipe, I was in hog-heaven (I thought). Are you saying now that I may wake up one morning and actually be looking at a hog?? (assuming I go in that direction....)


    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 6:11PM
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I believe that most plastics are inert as a rule after manufacture. I wouldn't sweat it. A lot of people like to over think things. PVC is non toxic as far as I know.

I see alot of people using "zip ties" to tie up plants,is that an issue?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 6:29PM
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Hi, You sure do a lots of work to water a container.

My fill tube is 1/8 of an inch tube. That shouldn't be too bad. Of course you are going to put the tomato in a plastic container????

I haven't put my watering system into use yet. I am planing on using it this coming winter in the house.

See the photo of my self watering container system.


Here is a link that might be useful: Automatic container watering

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 8:21PM
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Amen,,Bingster..I'm still healthy..been using pvc for years..

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 10:50PM
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From what I have read, ABS does not have a numerical recyclable code, which is based upon the type of resin in the plastic. It was not part of the original resin identifIcation so it has its own code: ABS.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 11:21PM
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Rigid PVC has been used by aquarium hobbyists and hydroponic growers for years. If there was a problem with contaniments leaching from the PVC they would haved stopped using it long ago and aquarium hobbyists are more concerned about the water quality in their tanks than what they drink!
Flexible PVC that uses plasticizers to get the elasticity can cause problems and should be avioided.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 1:06AM
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I read this thread with some interest because I want to build a temporary hoop house using small dia. pvc pipe for the ribs but saw a previous post warning of pvc dangers. Managed to get along without it so far.

In a former life, I worked around the stuff some. In our area pvc is not used for fresh water piping with the exception of C-900 pipe used for mainline as a substitute for ductile iron.

As has been noted, different grades have different compositions and different safety levels and while I'm no expert on this, I do know that controlling depth, duration, frequency and intensity of exposure is a major factor in how risky something may or may not be to us.

I'll keep looking but maybe #3 rebar is what I should be thinking about using in an effort to just side step the issue.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 9:15AM
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Raybo, you know far more about container gardening than I do. This is my first year and I am still in the process of setting up the first box.

I belong to another group that was making a big deal out of not using PVC in the containers. I was asking for input on this from others on this board. I first heard of ABS here and several posters are using it. I couldn't find anything that said it should not be used and some of the commercial boxes have ABS for fill tubes. I persevered and did find the data I posted above. Until I found out what ABS actually is, I thought it was safe. I also thought commercial water bottles are safe until I learned about the resin codes. Most of these bottles are #7 which is toxic. I threw my #7 bottles and glasses in the recycle bin.

I think we need to make some educated decisions. I want to know as much as I can about the different materials. Then, based on what I learn and my health issues, I decide what to use. I will be using PVC -- at least for this year. It is used for water lines in some places. ABS on the other hand has never been approved for anything but drains, waste and venting. That classification and use indicate it is not save to use for food or water coming into the home.

That being said. There are times when we as individuals must decide what to worry about and what we won't worry about. We have to take personal responsibility for those decisions. We are constantly coming into contact with toxic and/or hazardous things. In our environments, it just can't be avoided on a daily basis. I choose not to worry about all of these things.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 10:37AM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

lime coke,

Agree 100% with your philosophy and that is why I spent more to get the ABS pipe over the standard PVC. Now, what you are kindly educating us on is that ABS pipe may not be a better choice. Other than using (EXPENSIVE) copper, what are our options for the filler tube material?

Also, I had understood that all of these materials were inert at normal temperature levels, and only became "ballistic" when they were heated to extreme conditions (like in a fire). So as my EarthTainer filler tube will not ever get over 90 degrees even in the warmth of Summer, is it really a significant health risk?


    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 12:23PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

Hi its kristy,

My ABS pipe has the number "9" stamped within the triangular recycle symbol. I have tried finding "recycle #9" info on the Web, but no luck.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 12:28PM
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Bamboo has been suggested. The problem with that is bamboo isn't always hallow at the joints. So you would have to figure out a way to drill holes there. There has to be a way since some underdeveloped regions use bamboo for water pipes.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 1:39PM
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~~~ So you would have to figure out a way to drill holes there. ~~~

Home Depot has an 18" drill bit extension for 17 bucks. They also make 18" wood bits.

I don't use mine often but they have come in handy.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 4:04PM
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Here you go raybo on your code #9. Ami

Here is a link that might be useful: Recycling codes

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 4:09PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

Thanks Ami, Coffee Makers are made out of ABS. Very interesting, as I would have thought the heat of a Coffee Maker would surely stress the potential release of harmful chemicals into the boiling coffee....hmmmm


    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 5:17PM
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I am wondering if they use the ABS for the outside or shell of the coffee maker. Then the coffee you are drinking would not come into contact with it.

The more I learn the more befuddled I get. Maybe I'll flip a quarter --heads it's...

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 5:55PM
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momisd(7 Durham, NC)


PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is the fancy name for vinyl, a type of plastic. [...]
When we think of vinyl, we might think of faux-alligator purses or raincoats or, yes, tablecloths and mattress covers. But it is also used in all manner of other products. Your water pipes and house siding might be made of it. Your computer and refrigerator might contain it. It's in toys, shower curtains, hospital tubing, peanut butter jars, airplanes, pill bottles, packaging, cars, and fiber optics. In short, it's tricky to avoid, and it's also tricky to identify, since, as you point out, there are no labeling requirements.

Why do we want to identify and avoid it? Because its manufacture, use, and disposal involve dioxin, phthalates, lead, and other nasties that can cause cancer, endocrine disruption, endometriosis, birth defects, respiratory problems, and immune system damage. Because the full range of its effects on human health hasn't been fully determined. And because there are indeed alternatives, including other types of plastic, that are not nearly as damaging to the environment and to our health.


So, yes, it may be inert enough to use in your SWC, but there are a lot of people out here trying to avoid it because of the hazards of its manufacture, not just its use.

Here is a link that might be useful: on PVC

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 11:53PM
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shelbyguy(z5 IL)


You have a lot more to fear from your fertilizer than you do from vinyl tubing.

Even organic growers [organic and sustainable are two different things and one does not imply the other]

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 7:50AM
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