Vinyl Chloride & (PVC) Polyvinyl Chloride Health Hazards
US EPA / ATSDR information, part 2
VINYL CHLORIDE EXPOSURE HEALTH EFFECTS - EPA - CONTENTS: PVC Polyvinyl Chloride Hazard Summary, Uses of PolyVinyl Chloride, PVC EXPOSURE SOURCES, How to Assess, Test for or Measure Personal Exposure to Vinyl Chloride. Physical Properties of vinyl chloride or polyvinyl chloride. Table of Health Data from Inhalation Exposure to Vinyl Chloride. Standards and Guidelines for [Industrial] Exposure to Vinyl Chloride
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PVC & Vinyl Chloride health hazards:
This article (part 2) discusses US EPA-provided information on health effects of exposure to vinyl-chloride (PVC - polyvinyl chloride) and hPVC 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 vinyl siding damaged by use of a barbecue grill placed too close to the building exterior wall of a home in Port Jervis, NY - a potential fire hazard. (The grill had been removed when we took this picture). Owners noticed a "plastic odor" when they were cooking outdoors!
Vinyl & Vinyl Chloride Possible Health Hazard Information Provided Here - Dioxin (potent carcinogen) & HCL
PVC Polyvinyl Chloride Hazard Summary-Created in April 1992; Revised in January 2000
The following information was obtained from the US EPA, to which we have made a few [additions of content from other sources and occasional edits for clarity].
Most vinyl chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and vinyl products. Acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride in air has resulted in central nervous system effects (CNS), such as dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches in humans.
Chronic (long-term) exposure to vinyl chloride through inhalation and oral exposure in humans has resulted in liver damage. Cancer is a major concern from exposure to vinyl chloride via inhalation, as vinyl chloride exposure has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer in humans. EPA has classified vinyl chloride as a Group A, human carcinogen.
Uses [of PolyVinyl Chloride]
Most of the vinyl chloride produced in the United States is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a material used to manufacture a variety of plastic and vinyl products including pipes, wire and cable coatings, and packaging materials. (1)
[DF NOTE: This includes vinyl building siding, vinyl windows and doors, and similar building products. We discuss the odors that might be detected from some of these products, especially where exposed to heat or sunlight in our article
at VINYL SIDING or WINDOW PLASTIC ODORS]
Smaller amounts of vinyl chloride are used in furniture and automobile upholstery, wall coverings, housewares, and automotive parts. (1)
Vinyl chloride has been used in the past as a refrigerant. (1)
Sources and Potential Exposure [of Vinyl Chloride]
Ambient air concentrations of vinyl chloride are generally quite low, with exposure occurring from the discharge of exhaust gases from factories that manufacture or process vinyl chloride, or evaporation from areas where chemical wastes are stored. (1,2)
Air inside new cars may contain vinyl chloride at higher levels than detected in ambient air because vinyl chloride may outgas into the air from the new plastic parts. (1,2)
Drinking water may contain vinyl chloride released from contact with polyvinyl pipes. (1,2)
Vinyl chloride is a microbial degradation product of trichloroethylene in groundwater, and thus can be found in groundwater affected by trichloroethylene contamination. (3)
Occupational exposure to vinyl chloride may occur in those workers concerned with the production, use, transport, storage, and disposal of the chemical. (1,2)
How to Assess, Test for or Measure Personal Exposure to Vinyl Chloride (polyvinyl chloride)
Vinyl chloride can be detected in urine and body tissues, but the tests are not reliable indicators of total exposure. (1,2)
[DJF addition from ATSDR: 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. ATSDR can tell you where to find occupational and environmental health clinics.]
Health Hazard Information about Vinyl Chloride Exposure, Acute & Chronic
Acute exposure of humans to high levels of vinyl chloride via inhalation in humans has resulted in effects on the CNS, such as dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, and giddiness. (1,2)
Vinyl chloride is reported to be slightly irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract in humans. (1,2)
Acute exposure to extremely high levels of vinyl chloride has caused loss of consciousness, lung and kidney irritation, and inhibition of blood clotting in humans and cardiac arrhythmias in animals. (1)
Tests involving acute exposure of mice have shown vinyl chloride to have high acute toxicity from inhalation exposure. (5)
Chronic Effects(Noncancer) [of exposure to vinyl chloride]:
Liver damage may result in humans from chronic exposure to vinyl chloride, through both inhalation and oral exposure. (1,2)
A small percentage of individuals occupationally exposed to high levels of vinyl chloride in air have developed a set of symptoms termed "vinyl chloride disease," which is characterized by Raynaud's phenomenon (fingers blanch and numbness and discomfort are experienced upon exposure to the cold), changes in the bones at the end of the fingers, joint and muscle pain, and scleroderma-like skin changes (thickening of the skin, decreased elasticity, and slight edema). (1,2)
CNS effects (including dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, headache, visual and/or hearing disturbances, memory loss, and sleep disturbances) as well as peripheral nervous system symptoms (peripheral neuropathy, tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain in fingers) have also been reported in workers exposed to vinyl chloride. (1)
Animal studies have reported effects on the liver, kidney, and CNS from chronic exposure to vinyl chloride. (1,6)
EPA has established a Reference Concentration (RfC) of 0.1 milligrams per cubic meter, and a Reference Dose (RfD) of 0.003 milligrams per kilogram per day for vinyl chloride. Please see IRIS for current information. (8)
Reproductive/Developmental Effects [of exposure to vinyl chloride]:
Several case reports suggest that male sexual performance may be affected by vinyl chloride. However, these studies are limited by lack of quantitative exposure information and possible co-occurring exposure to other chemicals. (1)
Several epidemiological studies have reported an association between vinyl chloride exposure in pregnant women and an increased incidence of birth defects, while other studies have not reported similar findings. (1,2)
Epidemiological studies have suggested an association between men occupationally exposed to vinyl chloride and miscarriages in their wives' pregnancies although other studies have not supported these findings. (1,2)
Testicular damage and decreased male fertility have been reported in rats exposed to low levels for up to 12 months. (1)
Animal studies have reported decreased fetal weight and birth defects at levels that are also toxic to maternal animals in the offspring of rats exposed to vinyl chloride through inhalation. (1)
Cancer Risk [of exposure to vinyl chloride]:
Inhaled vinyl chloride has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer (angiosarcoma of the liver) in humans. (1,2,6)
Animal studies have shown that vinyl chloride, via inhalation, increases the incidence of angiosarcoma of the liver and cancer of the liver. (1,2,6)
Several rat studies show a pronounced early-life susceptibility to the carcinogenic effect of vinyl chloride, i.e., early exposures are associated with higher liver cancer incidence than similar or much longer exposures that occur after maturity. (1)
EPA has classified vinyl chloride as a Group A, human carcinogen. (8)
EPA uses mathematical models, based on animal studies, to estimate the probability of a person developing cancer from breathing air containing a specified concentration of a chemical. EPA has calculated an inhalation unit risk estimate of 8.8 × 10-6 (µg/m3)-1 for lifetime exposure to vinyl chloride. Please see IRIS for current information. (8)
EPA has calculated an oral cancer slope factor of 1.5 (mg/kg/d)-1 for lifetime exposure to vinyl chloride. Please see IRIS for current information. (8)
Physical Properties of vinyl chloride or polyvinyl chloride
Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas with a mild, sweet odor. (1)
The odor threshold for vinyl chloride is 3,000 ppm. (4)
Vinyl chloride is slightly soluble in water and is quite flammable. (1)
The chemical formula for vinyl chloride is C2H3Cl and the molecular weight is 62.5 g/mol. (1)
The vapor pressure for vinyl chloride is 2,600 mm Hg at 25 °C, and it has a log octanol/water partition coefficient (log Kow) of 1.36. (1)
The half-life of vinyl chloride in air is a few hours. (1)
Table of Health Data from Inhalation Exposure to Vinyl Chloride
ACGIH TLV--American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists' threshold limit value expressed as a time-weighted average; the concentration of a substance to which most workers can be exposed without adverse effects.
LC50 (Lethal Concentration50)--A calculated concentration of a chemical in air to which exposure for a specific length of time is expected to cause death in 50% of a defined experimental animal population.
OSHA PEL--Occupational Safety and Health Administration's permissible exposure limit expressed as a time-weighted average: the concentration of a substance to which most workers can be exposed without adverse effect averaged over a normal 8-h workday or a 40-h workweek.
OSHA PEL ceiling value--OSHA's permissible exposure limit ceiling value; the concentration of a substance that should not be exceeded at any time.
Conversion Factors [for table on health data about Inhalation of Vinyl Chloride Gas] To convert concentrations in air (at 25°C) from ppm to mg/m3: mg/m3 = (ppm) × (molecular weight of the compound)/(24.45). For vinyl chloride: 1 ppm = 2.6 mg/m3. To convert concentrations in air from µg/m3 to mg/m3: mg/m3 = (µg/m3) × (1 mg/1,000 µg).
The health and regulatory values cited in this factsheet were obtained in December 1999. aHealth numbers are toxicological numbers from animal testing or risk assessment values developed by EPA. bRegulatory numbers are values that have been incorporated in Government regulations, while advisory numbers are nonregulatory values provided by the Government or other groups as advice. OSHA numbers are regulatory, whereas ACGIH numbers are advisory. cThe LOAEL is from the critical study used as the basis for the ATSDR intermediate-duration inhalation MRL. dThe LOAEL is from the critical study used as the basis for the CalEPA chronic inhalation reference exposure level.
Standards and Guidelines for [Industrial] Exposure to Vinyl Chloride
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 WINDOW PLASTIC ODORS.
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(Nov 17, 2011) Terry Hess said:
Concerned about my multiple high dose exposures to PVC dust and smoke over last ten years ,have had breathing problems and throat phlem for over two years now ,any professional advice/help welcome
Start with your own personal physician or perhaps ask for a referral to a doctor who specializes in environmental medicine.
Questions & answers or comments about the building code or functional requirement for air barriers and moisture barriers behind vinyl siding.
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Additional technical contributors & reference sources for this article are listed below.
Hazard Summary-Created in April 1992; Revised in January 2000," US EPA, available at epa.gov/ttn/uatw/hlthef/vinylchl.html
Asthma Citation: Bornehag, CG, et al. “Allergic symptoms and asthma among children are associated with phthalates in dust from their homes: a nested casecontrol study,” Environmental Health Perspectives. 15 July 2004
HCL (hydrochloric acid) Toxicity Citation: OEHHA(CA Office of Environmental Health Assessment) Acute Toxicity Summary: Hydrogen Chloride March 1999
American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). 1999 TLVs and BEIs. Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents, Biological Exposure Indices. Cincinnati, OH. 1999.
"Blue Vinyl", (movie), BLUE VINYL TOXIC COMEDY PICTURES, 77 Bleecker St #C218, New York, NY 10012 Phone: 212.875.0456 Fax: 646.290.9274
Screening information: email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Co-Director/Co-Producer Judith Helfand Judith@bluevinyl.org, Co-Dir/Co-Producer/D.P.
Dan Gold, Dan@bluevinyl.org, Co-Producer Julie Parker, Julie@bluevinyl.org - from the film's website: A Toxic Comedy Look at Vinyl, The World's Second Largest Selling Plastic. With humor, hope and a
piece of vinyl siding firmly in hand, Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Judith Helfand and co-director Daniel B. Gold travel from Helfand’s hometown to America’s vinyl manufacturing capital and beyond in search of answers about the nature of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Her parents’ decision to “re-side”
their house with this seemingly benign cure-all for many suburban homes turns into a toxic odyssey
with twists and turns that most ordinary homeowners wouldnever dare to take. The result is a humorous
but sobering and uniquely personal exploration of the relationship between consumers and industry in the feature-length documentary BLUE VINYL, which won the cinematography award in the documentary competition at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival BLUE VINYL also poses a refreshingly simple question: “Is it possible to make products that never hurt anyone at any point of their life cycle—when manufactured, when used, or when disposed of?"
Vinyl acetate information: not to be confused with vinyl chloride
information from OSHA: see osha.gov/SLTC/healthguidelines/vinylacetate/recognition.html includes exposure limits and hazard description.
data sheet from DOW chemical: see dow.com/productsafety/finder/vinyl.htm
Medical Management Guidelines
Vinyl Chloride(C2H3Cl) - PDF from the US ATSDR, Department of health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic substances and Disease Registry, atsdr.cdc.gov/MHMI/mmg20.html. ATSDR can tell you where to find occupational and environmental health clinics. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,
Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine,
1600 Clifton Road NE, Mailstop F-32,
Atlanta, GA 30333, 800-CDC-INFO • 888-232-6348 (TTY),
"Siding With Vinyl", Vinyl Siding Institute, a vinyl building products industry association, National Housing Center, 120115th Street NW, Suite 220, Washington, DC 20005 - www.vinylsiding.org
Thanks to reader Uri Dekel, Ph.D. for discussing PVC hazards and building odors 4/12/2010
EPA Article References
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Toxicological Profile for Vinyl Chloride (Update). Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, GA. 1997.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Case Studies in Environmental Medicine. Vinyl Chloride Toxicity. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, GA. 1990.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Toxicological Profile for Trichloroethylene. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, GA. 1992.
J.E. Amoore and E. Hautala. Odor as an aid to chemical safety: Odor thresholds compared with threshold limit values and volatilities for 214 industrial chemicals in air and water dilution. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 3(6):272-290. 1983.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS, online database). National Toxicology Information Program, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD. 1993.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB, online database). National Toxicology Information Program, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD. 1993.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Health Effects Assessment Summary Tables. FY1997 Update. Environmental Criteria and Assessment Office, Office of Health and Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development, Cincinnati, OH. 1997.
American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). 1999 TLVs and BEIs. Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents, Biological Exposure Indices. Cincinnati, OH. 1999.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Occupational Safety and Health Standards, Toxic and Hazardous Substances. Code of Federal Regulations 29 CFR 1910.1017. 1998.
California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). Technical Support Document for the Determination of Noncancer Chronic Reference Exposure Levels. Draft for Public Comment. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Berkeley, CA. 1997
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Kansas State University, department of plant pathology, extension plant pathology web page on wheat rust fungus: see http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/path-ext/factSheets/Wheat/Wheat%20Leaf%20Rust.asp
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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