Vinyl chloride is a compound used to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is commonly used in the United States to produce pipes, vinyl siding, vinyl windows, mini blinds, wire and cable coatings, car upholstery, automotive parts, medical supplies, and packing materials. The World Health Organization, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency have determined that vinyl chloride causes cancer and a host of other serious and often fatal illnesses.
Exposure to Vinyl Chloride
Vinyl chloride is a toxic substance. No level of exposure to this compound is safe. Exposure to vinyl chloride commonly occurs through the air. People that work in places that manufacture vinyl chloride or PVC run the highest risk of exposure, but toxic levels of the substance have been found in air samples around manufacturing plants, and in hazardous waste sites and landfills. When vinyl chloride is released as a gas into the air, the toxic gas enters the respiratory and circulatory systems of those who inhale the polluted air.
Exposure to vinyl chloride also occurs via contaminated drinking water. Wells become contaminated when vinyl chloride gas seeps into the soil and groundwater. Vinyl chloride has also been found to leak from PVC piping and contaminate drinking water. Once the toxin is present in well or drinking water, exposure can occur through showering, cooking, laundry, and drinking.
Vinyl chloride can be found in both liquid and gas forms. Gas that rises through contaminated soil can leak into homes and buildings through cracks in the foundation. Once the gas permeates the air within the building, residents and occupants inhale the toxic gas, which then exposes them to cancer and other health issues. This toxic compound is also found in cigarette and cigar smoke through first and second-hand exposure.
Health Effects of Exposure to Vinyl Chloride
Exposure to any level of vinyl chloride can put humans at risk for cancer and other health issues. Vinyl chloride has been linked to cancer of the liver, brain, and lungs, as well as leukemia, lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, and hepatic angiosarcoma. Vinyl chloride can also attack the central nervous system resulting in the following:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Nerve damage
- Memory loss
- Sleep disorders
Vinyl chloride diseases such as Raynaud’s Phenomenon and scleroderma can also occur through exposure. Raynaud’s Phenomenon restricts blood flow to the hands and fingers, while scleroderma leads to a thickening of the skin, decreased elasticity, and edema. The following can also occur:
- Autoimmune reactions
- Skin and eye irritation
- Respiratory depression and disease
- Visual and auditory disturbances
- Loss of consciousness
- Hydrocarbon pneumonitis in children
- Male infertility
- Behavioral issues
Prevention to Vinyl Chloride Exposure
Preventing exposure to vinyl chloride is the best way to reduce the risks associated with this toxic compound. Residents with wells should have them tested for vinyl chloride. Once an area has been identified containing vinyl chloride, avoid drinking, bathing, and cooking with the contaminated water. Bottled water should be used until the area has been deemed safe, but caution should be made to use bottled water from containers that are PVC free.
If you live in an area wherein soil has been contaminated by vinyl chloride, prohibit children from playing outside, especially around the soil. Test the air inside your home, and make sure there are tight seals around sump pumps and the foundation of your building. Avoid cigarette and cigar smoke of any kind, and increase the ventilation in your home or office building by cracking windows or using ventilation systems.
Whenever vinyl chloride exposure is suspected or confirmed, a consultation with an experienced environmental lawyer is essential. A competent and knowledgeable environmental lawyer can ensure that proper clean up occurs, regular inspections are made, and that your legal rights are protected. Compensation for damages to property or health can help victims recover from the harm they have experienced due to their exposure.
Pennsylvania Environmental Lawyers at Williams Cedar Represent Victims of Vinyl Chloride Exposure
If you or someone you know has been exposed to vinyl chloride, contact the skilled Pennsylvania environmental lawyers at Williams Cedar at 215-557-0099, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our experienced environmental lawyers can help you claim the compensation you may be entitled to receive. Our Philadelphia and Cherry Hill offices serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.