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Vinyl chloride & plastic odor exposure health effects: This article (part 3) discusses possible health effects of exposure to plastic or vinyl odors and outgassing in building interiors and gives references to more scholarly information sources. To improve clarity and provide public information we include here information from several US government sources including the US EPA and the US ATSDR, Department of health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic substances and Disease Registry. Our page top photo shows our client pointing to a window where occupants suspected an unpleasant "plastic" odor was originating. But notice that this is an older wooden sash. Also notice those vinyl plastic curtains on either side of the window?
Plastic odors and the detection & source-diagnosis of many common odor sources observed some installations of vinyl exterior building siding or in other plastic or vinyl building products such as windows and trim are discussed at VINYL Siding or PLASTIC Window ODORS in Buildings. For a more broad approach to diagnosing building odor sources, see ODORS, Smells, Gases in Buildings-Diagnosis & Cure and see our ODOR DIAGNOSIS CHECKLIST, PROCEDURE
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
A single small exposure [to vinyl chloride] from which a person recovers quickly is unlikely to cause delayed or long-term effects. Exposure to vinyl chloride over many years can affect the liver, nervous system, and skin. Long-term exposure can cause a rare form of liver cancer.
There is no antidote for vinyl chloride, but its effects can be treated and most exposed persons recover completely. Persons who have inhaled large amounts of vinyl chloride might need to be hospitalized.-- ATSDR
Vinyl chloride is thought to depress the CNS via a solvent effect on lipids and protein components of neural membranes that interrupts signal transmission. Reactive metabolic intermediates may also cause specific target organ toxicity by covalently bonding to tissue or initiating destructive chain reactions such as lipid peroxidation. There may be a latent period of hours to days between exposure and symptom onset. Vinyl chloride is rapidly metabolized and the metabolites are eliminated in the urine.
Children do not always respond to chemicals in the same way that adults do. Different protocols for managing their care may be needed.-- ATSDR
Prolonged absorption of vinyl chloride can induce hepatotoxicity and hepatic cancers, including angiosarcoma. Portal hypertension and cirrhosis can occur.
Vinyl chloride toxicity is thought to result from the binding of reactive epoxide metabolites to hepatic DNA. Other effects of chronic exposure include sensory-motor polyneuropathy; pyramidal, extrapyramidal, and cerebellar abnormalities; neuropsychiatric symptoms such as sleep disorders, loss of libido, headaches, and irritability; EEG alterations; and immunopathologic phenomena such as purpura and thrombocytopenia. Vinyl chloride disease is a syndrome consisting of Raynaud's phenomenon, acroosteolysis (dissolution of the bones of the terminal phalanges and sacroiliac joints), and scleroderma-like skin changes.-- ATSDR
The following opinion is not part of the original US EPA Article on vinyl chloride odors, exposure, and hazards shown above.
The jury may be out on the question of health effects of residential exposure to various smells and odors such as the "plastic smell" we discuss at VINYL Siding or PLASTIC Window ODORS in Buildings. Plastics are used in an enormous range of building materials and consumer products, and plastics vary widely in their properties, chemical composition, tendency to give off gases, smells, odors, and in possible health concern.
One of the plastics that has received a lot of study are those using vinyl chloride. This product might be present in some common building products such as vinyl siding and vinyl windows or screens. The US EPA has classified vinyl chloride as a Group A, human carcinogen. Vinyl chloride might be present in gas form as a colorless, flammable gas with a faintly sweet odor at levels of about 3000 ppm (the odor detection threshold). Vinyl chloride hazards are discussed above at VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO.
Because people's sensitivity to smells and odors varies widely, as does their individual health, genetics, and vulnerability, we do not offer an opinion about the actual level of risk associated with odors that individuals perceive in a building.
When readers discuss exposure to various sources of odors, some of which might be unsafe, we
With many substances, people are able to detect by smell a substance at very low actual concentrations. It is possible that people detect smells or odors at levels well below currently-established levels of hazard, even if risk levels have been established for the particular chemical or chemical group.
Where chemical or plastic smells are observed in a building, many readers and some experts take an approach of prudent avoidance that includes identifying and correcting the odor source and improving indoor air quality with introduction of outdoor fresh air when that is practical.
Where serious illness or major expenses are involved with exposure to a particular indoor gas or odor, expert inspection and tests can be performed by various building experts including environmental inspectors and industrial hygienists. We advise against simple "air tests" alone as without a diagnostic inspection, even if a troublesome level of exposure is detected the building owners or occupants may be left without an actual plan of action.
This handout, provided by ATSDR provides information and follow-up instructions for persons who have been exposed to vinyl chloride.
What is vinyl chloride?
Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas at room temperature that has a mild, sweet odor. It is handled and shipped as a liquid under high pressure in a special container. It is used to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic material used to make many products, including automotive parts, furniture, and building materials.
What immediate health effects can be caused by exposure to vinyl chloride?
Inhaling vinyl chloride causes sleepiness and dizziness, and can cause loss of consciousness. If pressurized liquid vinyl chloride escapes from its container and comes in contact with the skin or eyes, it can cause frostbite or irritation.
Can vinyl chloride poisoning be treated?
There is no antidote for vinyl chloride, but its effects can be treated and most exposed persons recover completely. Persons who have inhaled large amounts of vinyl chloride might need to be hospitalized.
Are any future health effects likely to occur?
A single small exposure from which a person recovers quickly is unlikely to cause delayed or long-term effects. Exposure to vinyl chloride over many years can affect the liver, nervous system, and skin. Long-term exposure can cause a rare form of liver cancer.
What tests can be done if a person has been exposed to vinyl chloride?
Specific tests for the presence of vinyl chloride in the breath or breakdown products in the urine are available, but they must be performed shortly after exposure and are not generally helpful. If a severe exposure has occurred, blood and other tests might show whether the liver or other organs have been damaged. Testing is not needed in every case.
Where can more information about vinyl chloride be found?
If the exposure happened at work, you might be required to contact your employer and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employees may request a Health Hazard Evaluation from the national Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
You can get more information about vinyl chloride from your regional poison control center; your state, county, or local health department; the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR); your doctor; or a clinic in your area that specializes in occupational and environmental health. Ask the person who gave you this form for help locating these telephone numbers.
Patient Information Sheet 17, Vinyl Chloride Follow-up Instructions
Keep this page and take it with you to your next appointment. Follow only the instructions checked below.
[ ] Call your doctor or the Emergency Department if you develop any unusual signs or symptoms within the next 24 hours, especially:
dizziness, disorientation, drowsiness, or headaches
burning of skin or eyes
nausea or loss of appetite
[ ] No follow-up appointment is necessary unless you develop any of the symptoms listed above.
[ ] Call for an appointment with Dr. in the practice of .
When you call for your appointment, please say that you were treated in the Emergency Department at Hospital by and were advised to be seen again in days.
[ ] Return to the Emergency Department/ Clinic on (date) at
AM/PM for a follow-up examination.
[ ] Do not perform vigorous physical activities for 1 to 2 days.
[ ] You may resume everyday activities including driving and operating machinery.
[ ] Do not return to work for days.
[ ] You may return to work on a limited basis. See instructions below.
[ ] Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke for 72 hours; smoke may worsen the condition of your lungs.
[ ] Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages for at least 24 hours; alcohol may worsen injury to your stomach or have other effects.
[ ] Avoid taking the following medications:
[ ] You may continue taking the following medication(s) that your doctor(s) prescribed for you:
[ ] Other instructions:
Provide the Emergency Department with the name and the number of your primary care physician so that the ED can send him or her a record of your emergency department visit.
You or your physician can get more information on the chemical by contacting: or , or by checking out the following Internet Web sites:
How to Link to this article - copy and paste the link code just below:
PVC Vinyl Building Products, Odors, Hazards Information can be found at InspectAPedia.com® - Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair, & Problem Prevention Advice. Unbiased information, no conflicts of interest.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about vinyl chloride hazards
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Technical Reviewers & References
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EPA Article References
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