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Vinyl Chloride

Vinyl chloride is used primarily to make PVC, a substance used in products such as pipes.

What is vinyl chloride?

Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas that burns easily. It does not occur naturally and must be produced industrially for its commercial uses. Vinyl chloride is used primarily to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a hard plastic resin used to make a variety of plastic products, including pipes, wire and cable coatings, and packaging materials. (PVC is not a known or suspected carcinogen.)

Vinyl chloride is also produced as a combustion product in tobacco smoke.

How are people exposed to vinyl chloride?

Workers at facilities where vinyl chloride is produced or used may be exposed primarily through inhalation. The general population may be exposed by inhaling contaminated air or tobacco smoke. In the environment, the highest levels of vinyl chloride are found in air around factories that produce vinyl products. If a water supply is contaminated, vinyl chloride can enter household air when the water is used for showering, cooking, or laundry.

Which cancers are associated with exposure to vinyl chloride?

Vinyl chloride exposure is associated with an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), as well as primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), brain and lung cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia.

How can exposures be reduced?

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration provides information about exposure limits to vinyl chloride.

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Selected References:

  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Public Health Statement: Vinyl Chloride. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006. Available online. Last accessed October 31, 2022.
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer. Vinyl Chloride, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Volume 100F. Lyon, France: World Health Organization, 2012. Also available online. Last accessed December 28, 2018.
  • National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Vinyl Chloride, NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010. Also available online. Last accessed October 31, 2022.
  • National Toxicology Program. Vinyl Halides (Selected), Report on Carcinogens, Fifteenth Edition. Triangle Park, NC: National Institute of Environmental Health and Safety, 2016. Also available online. Last accessed October 31, 2022.
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