Living in Washington, DC can be brutal during the summer months thanks to the heat and humidity. Here at the AFPM offices, the temperature has been cracking 90 °F too many times for my liking this summer. Thankfully petrochemicals are playing an important role to help me beat the heat.

Did you know that building materials use a wide range of petrochemicals to keep one cool? New roofing materials often are made from reflective light colored roofing membranes made of polyvinyl chloride, aka PVC or vinyl, (which is made from the petrochemical ethylene as a building block). White roofs made of vinyl can reflect three-quarters of the sun’s rays and emit 70 or more percent of the solar radiation absorbed by the building envelope. Less heat entering the building through the roof can reduce the need and cost of building cooling.

Insulation is also key. Structural insulated panels made from polystyrene foam (produced from the petrochemical styrene) are used behind walls and under floors. Their use can improve a building’s energy efficiency by providing a complete layer of insulation to reduce air movement which can rob the house of energy.

And what about plastic house wrap technology? Plastic house wrap (which is made from high-density polyethylene fibers – courtesy of the petrochemical ethylene) reduces the infiltration of outside air and helps to drastically reduce the energy required to heat or cool the home. So with these technologies (and, of course, air conditioners and fans  — which have plenty of parts made from petrochemicals) one can keep cool indoors.

Heading to the pool is another way to stay cool in the summer. Most bathing suits are made from materials such as polyester, nylon and Lycra (all made from petrochemicals). In addition, many above ground pools and most inflatable wading pools are made from some combination of PVC (which has excellent resistance to damage via abrasion, impact and sunlight), polypropylene (made from the petrochemical propylene) and polyester mesh. Swimming pools with PVC and polypropylene covers bring safety and peace of mind to pool owners with very small children.

And if all else fails, you can always go see the new Planet of the Apes movie in 3-D (3-D glasses courtesy of petrochemicals). Thanks to petrochemicals there are many ways to keep cool this summer.

Melissa Hockstad

Posted by Melissa Hockstad

Melissa Hockstad is the former Vice President of Petrochemicals for AFPM. To learn more about AFPM, visit