Vinyl chloride, also called vinyl chloride monomer or chloroethene, is a colorless and potentially explosive gas and is used in the manufacture of plastics. It is highly toxic, flammable and carcinogenic.
Most vinyl chloride in the U.S. is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a material that is used in the manufacture of many plastic and vinyl products, such as pipes, wire and cable coatings, and packaging materials. Smaller amounts of vinyl chloride have also been used in furniture and automobile upholstery, automobile parts, housewares and wall coverings. Almost 13 billion kilograms of vinyl chloride are produced annually.
Vinyl chloride has also been found in the water supply of some cities. Water polluted by vinyl chloride must be immediately treated before it is safe to drink. Most vinyl chloride enters the water supply via leaching from PVC piping or discharge from plastics factories. The EPA has stringent guidelines on the proper storage and disposal of such toxic waste.
Effects of Vinyl Chloride Exposure
Long-term exposure to vinyl chloride has been linked to a deadly form of cancer called hepatic angiosarcoma. Angiosarcomas are rare but deadly malignant tumors characterized by rapid growth that effects the lining of blood vessels. Angiosarcomas can be located at various locations throughout the body but are primarily found in the liver, heart, spleen and bone. Hepatic angiosarcoma (angiosarcomas of the liver) is rare with only 25 new cases diagnosed annually in the United States.
Hepatic angiosarcoma affects the blood vessels in the liver and has an extremely low survival rate. Only 5% of those diagnosed with hepatic angiosarcoma live beyond two-years. Patients with hepatic angiosarcoma often exhibit nonspecific symptoms, such as:
- Weight loss
- Right upper quadrant pain
Angiosarcoma can be treated surgically, by removing the tumor, if it is found in a localized area and detected early. Chemotherapy may be indicated if the cancer is more advanced. Unfortunately, most cases of hepatic angiosarcoma are not detected until the later stages of the disease at which time there are no viable treatment options.
The link between vinyl chloride and hepatic angiosarcoma has been known for many years. Vinyl chloride is a well-known carcinogen and studies have shown the risk of developing angiosarcoma after being exposed to vinyl chloride is 400 times higher than in the general population.
Long-Term Exposure to Vinyl Chloride
Those most at risk of developing hepatic angiosarcoma are former employees of plastics plants and those involved in the production, transportation, or storage of the chemical. A large number of industries use vinyl chloride in the manufacturing process, including:
- Building and construction
- Medical supplies
- Rubber manufacturers
- Paper manufacturers
- Glass manufacturers
- Automotive industry
- Industrial and household equipment manufacturers
- Furniture manufacturers
- Manufacturers of plastic
Other at risk groups are beauticians and barber shop employees of the 1960s and early 1970s. Until 1974, vinyl chloride was used in as a propellant hairspray exposing a large number of these individuals to high levels of vinyl chloride.
If you or a loved one developed hepatic angiosarcoma and were subjected to long-term exposure to vinyl chloride you may be entitled to significant compensation. Please fill out the confidential form below or call us toll-free at 1-800-736-9085.