Fact Sheet: Vinyl Chloride


Brief Overview:
Contaminant: Vinyl Chloride
Category: Organic
Source: PVC pipe; solvent breakdown
Effect: Damage to the liver and nervous system; cancer
Followup: Treat and retest quarterly
Treatment: Granular activated charcoal

Vinyl chloride is a colorless organic gas with a sweet odor. It is used in the manufacture of numerous products in building and construction, automotive industry, electrical wire insulation and cables, piping, industrial and household equipment, medical supplies, and is depended upon heavily by the rubber, paper, and glass industries.

Production of vinyl chloride in 1993 was nearly 14 billion lbs. Its major release to the environment will be as emissions and wastewater at polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics production and manufacturing facilities. Small quantities of vinyl chloride can be released to food since it is used to make many food wrappings and containers.

From 1987 to 1993, according to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, vinyl chloride releases to water and land totalled over 38,000 lbs. These releases were primarily from plastics materials and resins industries. The largest releases occurred in Louisiana and Delaware.

What happens to Vinyl Chloride when it is released to the environment? Vinyl chloride released to soil will either quickly evaporate, be broken down by microbes or may leach to the groundwater. It also rapidly evaporates from water, but does not degrade there. It will not accumulate in aquatic life.

Short-term: EPA has found vinyl chloride to potentially cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time: damage to the nervous system.
Long-term: Vinyl chloride has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: damage to the liver and nervous system; cancer.

Treat and retest quarterly.

Granular activated charcoal in combination with Packed Tower Aeration.