Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas with a faintly sweet odor. It is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is used in a wide range of products, including credit cards, furniture, car parts, and most notably, PVC piping. A recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio has put this chemical on the front page of news with residents being evacuated due to a large release of the gas.
What is Vinyl Chloride?
The National Cancer Institute associates vinyl chloride exposure with increased risk of liver cancer and other types of cancer. Those who are at the greatest risk are PVC pipe makers who have inhaled the chemical during the manufacturing process. If the workers breathed in the gas for longer periods and had high levels of exposure, they were at an increased risk of developing rare liver cancers, according to Ruth Lunn, a researcher of carcinogens at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
What is Phosgene?
When vinyl chloride burns, it releases hazardous chemicals such as phosgene and hydrogen chloride into the air. Phosgene is a colorless gas with a pungent odor that can cause vomiting and breathing difficulties, and was once used as a weapon in World War I. Experts consider phosgene to be safe at exposure levels of 0.1 parts per million (ppm) during an eight-hour period, or 0.2 ppm during a 15-minute period. Hydrogen chloride is another chemical that can be released when vinyl chloride burns. It is a colorless to yellowish gas with a strong odor and is known to cause skin, eye, nose and throat irritation. Exposure to hydrogen chloride is considered safe at 5 ppm for an eight-hour period.
What are Dioxins?
There is also concern that the burning of vinyl chloride could lead to the formation of dioxins, which are created from burning chlorinated carbon materials. Dioxins are a group of persistent environmental pollutants that can remain in the ground and body for years and have been one of the major environmental problems and controversies in the United States. Experts are worried that the exposure to dioxins could have long-term health effects on individuals who were exposed.
At the moment, the Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring the air and water quality in the East Palestine area to determine the level of contamination. However, residents are concerned about the potential long-term effects of low-grade exposure, and it is not clear when it will be safe for them to return home.
Contact a Chemical Spill Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been exposed to vinyl chloride or other hazardous chemicals, it is important to contact a lawyer to understand your legal rights. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Contact TruLaw today for an Instant Case Evaluation if you have been exposed to vinyl chloride or any other hazardous materials.