Vinyl chloride is a substance that has been used in the production of many common items in our environment for many years. It is only in recent years that the public and the government have come to realize the severe cost to human health that vinyl chloride presents. The polymer of vinyl chloride has been described as one of the most hazardous products for human health ever created. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has determined that vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen
What is Vinyl Chloride?
Vinyl chloride is an organic compound and widely used industrial chemical. At room temperature it is a colorless sweet smelling gas used in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other resins, as a chemical intermediate and as an industrial solvent. It burns easily and it is not stable at high temperatures. While it is a manufactured substance that does not occur naturally, it can be formed when other substances such as trichloroethane, trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene are broken down.
Where is Vinyl Chloride found?
Various industries that utilze vinyl chloride in the manufacturing process include:
- building and construction
- automotive industry
- industrial and household equipment
- medical supplies
- rubber, paper, and glass industries
Polyvinyl Chloride( PVC) is used to make a variety of plastic products, including pipes, wire and cable coatings, and packaging materials. Vinyl chloride was used in the 1950s and 1960s as an ingredient in spray paints and hair sprays. Until 1974, vinyl chloride was used in aerosol spray propellants.
Vinyl chloride has been found in the air near vinyl chloride manufacturing and processing plants, hazardous waste sites, and landfills. Levels as high as 44 ppm were found in the air at some landfills. In 1999 in Mosville, Louisianna, the U.S, Environmental Agency found vinyl chloride in the air at 100 times what is permitted by law. This community is near a large vinyl products manufacturer.
Hairdressers were exposed to very significant concentrations of vinyl chloride when it was a component of hair spray. Workers in the companies that manufactured these aerosol sprays were exposed to even greater concentrations of vinyl chloride. Workers who make vinyl chloride or PVC piping have been subjected to the vapors of vinyl chloride.
Studies in workers who have breathed vinyl chloride over many years showed an increased risk of liver, brain and lung cancer. Some cancers of the blood have also been observed in workers. People are more likely to develop these changes if they breathe high levels of vinyl chloride.
What is the impact of Vinyl Chloride Exposure?
Vinyl chloride is a vascular toxin, and can cause the vascular liver cancer called angiosarcoma (a rapidly growing tumor). People who have breathed vinyl chloride for several years have changes in the structure of their livers. When some portion of it reaches the liver, the liver changes it into several substances. Most of these new substances also travel in your blood; once they reach your kidneys, they leave your body in your urine. The liver, however, makes some new substances that do not leave your body as rapidly. A few of these new substances are more harmful than vinyl chloride because they react with chemicals inside your body and interfere with the way your body normally uses or responds to these chemicals.
Some workers exposed to very high levels of vinyl chloride have problems with the blood flow in their hands, causing a deterioration of bone resulting in a condition called acroosteolysis, the dissolution of bone. This condition begins with a numbing of the fingertips followed by recurrent ulcers. This leads to disfigurement as a result of bone loss.
Concerns are mounting about the release of dioxins when polyvinyl chloride is being produced or burned. Elevated levels of dioxins in blood samples of people living nears PVC manufacturing sites is have been recorded. Dioxins can cause cancer and lead to problems in immune and reproductive systems.
Work exposure occurs primarily from breathing air that contains vinyl chloride, but workers also are exposed when vinyl chloride contacts the skin or eyes. Some people who work with vinyl chloride have nerve damage and develop immune reactions. The lowest levels that produce liver changes, nerve damage, and immune reaction in people are not known.
Contact Burke & Eisner
Contact Burke & Eisner today for a free claim evaluation if you have been exposed to vinyl chloride and are suffering health issues. You may be eligible to file a medical lawsuit.
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