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Is PVC Food Safe for Aquaponics?


Is PVC Food Safe for Aquaponics?

Polyvinyl chloride or commonly referred to as PVC is a widely used synthetic polymer. It is fairly versatile as it can be used for a variety of purposes. It can be used as insulation for electrical wires, for plumbing or even as a replacement for rubber. There are also different types of PVC.

But is PVC food safe? Can this type of thermoplastic be used for storing food without problems? There are many who are concerned about the use of PVC in an aquaponics system. In this article, we will help you determine whether PVC is safe or not.

is pvc piping food safe

Different Kinds of PVC

To determine whether PVC is food-safe, it is important to understand the material. As mentioned above, there are different types of PVC. These are:

  • Plain PVC
  • CPVC
  • UPVC
  • PCU-U
  • PVC-M
  • PVC-O

Generally speaking, PVC is available in two primary forms: an unplasticized polymer and a flexible plastic. The unplasticized form is very rigid and hard. It is also fairly durable. By comparison, plain PVC is softer and more flexible, which makes it relatively less durable.

CPVC is the chlorinated variant. Its unique properties include high glass transition temperature, high heat distortion temperature, and chemical inertness. It also has great applications for mechanical, dielectric, flame, and smoke-related purposes. CPVC is distinct from plain PVC in that it possesses a higher concentration of chlorine.

PVC-M is also a rigid variant. Among its distinct properties are impact strength and increased toughness. Meanwhile, PVC-O is the strongest variant and possesses very impressive tensile strength. Its characteristics are best highlighted by applications involving well-defined stress functionality.

Are PVC Pipes Toxic?

Among the general populace, there tends to be a great deal of worry regarding PVC pipes. There are many concerns that the pipes are toxic and their use in any sort of food project should be banned. Concerned parties argue that the combination of chlorine and dioxins poses a significant threat to public health. Additionally, the lead content in these pipes (from some manufacturers) has been a cause for alarm.

While these concerns are understandable, it is important to acknowledge that they cannot be applied to all types of PVC pipes. The NSF or National Sanitation Foundation has a number of standards and procedures used to certify pipes and fittings for plumbing projects. This is also applicable to PVC.

The NSF has specific codes related to food safety and water safety. This means that you can determine which kind of pipes are safest based on these codes. NSF-51 is the code specifically used to designate food safety. Additionally, PVC has always been FDA-approved and never been subject to prohibitions of any sort.


Is PVC Food Safe?

This article aims to answer the question, is PVC food safe? Well, in simple words, the answer is yes. Thanks to the aforementioned NSF-51 standards along with FDA approval, it is safe to conclude that PVC is food graded.

UPVC, in particular, is an extremely safe material and very low maintenance. This makes it an attractive option for using it in an aquaponics system. Since it is a safe material, there is no need to be concerned about any negative impact. Due to its rigidity and durability, storing items is very convenient.

Many people remain concerned that the combination of chemicals in PVC can be very dangerous and that exposure to the material needs to be limited as much as possible. Some suggest banning its use altogether. While being cautious is generally advisable, there are standards, codes, and measures in place to minimize the potential dangers of PVC. NSF-51 and NSF-61 (related to food and water respectively) both play a prominent role in ensuring that food grade PVC poses no threat to anyone’s health.

The Problem with Over-Glued PVC Pipes

While PVC pipes are not inherently dangerous, caution is important. A very real danger with PVC is the problem of using too much glue. For context, this glue is actually a chemical cement that is used for connecting pipes together.

pvc pipe glue

This substance is intrinsically toxic and should not make contact with the skin or be inhaled. This glue is also very flammable, so it is very important to use it as carefully as possible. If you inhale the glue, you will experience symptoms such as dizziness or respiratory problems. To protect yourself, you should either wear a secure mask or immediately get some fresh air.

The glue itself does dry quickly and will not be a danger, but if applied incorrectly, it can pose risks. Applying it incorrectly essentially means that too much glue was used. Excessive use of glue can slip through the pipes and enter your water. Seeing as how toxic the substance is, this can be extremely risky.

Thus, when installing PVC pipes, make sure you don’t over glue the pipes.


After reading this article, PVC pipes and their uses should be much clearer. While there continues to be a lot of concern regarding the subject, food-grade plastic continues to be in use. Thanks to involvement from entities such as the FDA and NSF, there is a concentrated effort to minimize health risks. These efforts aim to ensure that PVC used in the market maintains a healthy standard.

With this understanding, one can safely answer the question, “Is PVC food safe?” It is beneficial to be mindful of the concerns as well, such as those related to using too much glue when installing the pipes. This is because the toxic nature of the glue can be extremely dangerous. However, this problem can easily be averted by following the instructions.

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