Vinyl chloride is an industrial chemical used mainly to make polyvinyl chloride, a plastic used in thousands of consumer products. Vinyl chloride itself was once used in aerosol spray propellant. Inhaled in amounts large enough to smell, vinyl chloride has an effect similar to drunkenness, causing dizziness, confusion and unconsciousness. Unlike alcohol, vinyl chloride causes a variety of cancers, including a particularly virulent liver cancer called angiosarcoma of the liver. Other health effects include liver damage, Raynaud’s Disease (which damages blood vessels to the extremities), decreased blood clotting and birth defects. Occupational exposure is a risk for anyone who works in a vinyl chloride or PVC plant; those who worked in beauty salons using aerosol hair sprays before 1974 may also be at risk.
Vinyl Chloride Classified As Carcinogen
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as the National Toxicology Program, classifies vinyl chloride as a documented carcinogen. In fact, vinyl chloride appears in all registered carcinogen indices, and there is no level of exposure at which the adverse health effects are negligible. It is considered both a nephrotoxin (substance harmful to the kidneys) and a heptotoxin (substance harmful to the liver).
The following are some health risks and symptoms which may develop with prolonged exposure to vinyl chloride:
Lymphoma: Cancer which develops in the lymphatic system, a major component of the immune system.
Leukemia: A malignant disease marked by a proliferation of white blood cells.
Angiosarcoma (brain, liver, lung): Cancer that begins in the lining of blood vessels.
Adenocarcinoma: Malignant tumors which form in the glandular tissue of organs (e.g. lungs, cervix, prostate).
Pseudo-scleroderma: A progressive disease characterized by the deposition of fibrous connective tissue in the skin and often in internal organs; results in a thickening, swelling and hardening of the skin.
Acro-osteolysis: Marked by ulcers on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, also disintegration and fragmentation of the ends of the fingers and toes.
Various fetal damage issues, spontaneous abortions and birth defects.
Upper respiratory irritation: including, but not limited to, asthma, allergies, pneumonitis and bronchitis.
Raynaud’s Phenomenon (a disorder that affects the blood vessels in the fingers, toes, ears and nose. The disorder is characterized by episodic attacks, called vasospastic attacks that cause the blood vessels in the extremities to constrict and cause feelings of coolness and numbness.
Drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, unconsciousness.
Nausea, stomach ulcers.
Frostbite: With exposure to liquid vinyl chloride.
If exposure to vinyl chloride has occurred and an individual is exhibiting any negative health problems a doctor should be contacted and the local authorities for an inspection for occupational or domestic overexposure. Many manufacturing and processing plants in the country use vinyl chloride, however not very many produce it.
Vinyl chloride monomer is presently produced at 12 locations in the United States:
• Westlake, Calvert City, KY
• Borden, Geismar, LA
• Condea Vista, Lake Charles, LA
• Dow, Plaquemine, LA
• Formosa, Baton Rouge, LA
• Georgia Gulf, Plaquemine, LA
• PHH Monomers, Lake Charles, LA
• Dow, Freeport, TX
• Formosa, Point Comfort, TX
• Geon, LaPorte, TX
• OxyChem, Deer Park, TX
• OxyMar, Ingleside, TX
Toxic tort law exists to protect you and those you know from hazardous and harmful exposure to substances like vinyl chloride. No one should be put at risk due to negligence or intentional carelessness.