A train derailed in New Jersey this past week causing a tanker containing 25,000 gallons of vinyl chloride to slice open and land in a creek. Although 70+ people have already been treated for exposure to contaminants, the state Department of Environmental Protection said that sensors were not measuring any amounts of the chemical at the site claiming that the vinyl chloride has “evaporated”. Hmm… Did it immediately leave the earth”s atmosphere or is it still lingering around for people to breathe? Your guess is as good as mine.
Breathing the chemical, which is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a material used to manufacture a variety of plastic and vinyl products including pipes, wire and cable coatings and packaging materials, can make people dizzy or sleepy. Breathing very high levels can cause you to pass out, and breathing extremely high levels can cause death.
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about vinyl chloride:
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “vinyl chloride emissions from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene dichloride (EDC), and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plants cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness. Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen that causes a rare cancer of the liver.“ EPA’s 2001 updated Toxicological Profile and Summary Health Assessment for VCM in its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database lowers EPA’s previous risk factor estimate by a factor of 20 and concludes that “because of the consistent evidence for liver cancer in all the studies…and the weaker association for other sites, it is concluded that the liver is the most sensitive site, and protection against liver cancer will protect against possible cancer induction in other tissues”
Doesn’t sound to me like some mildly harmful chemical that is inclined to evaporate completely on contact. If high levels of liver cancer get reported by local residents at some point in the near future, they might think about calling Erin Brockovich. I’m sure that she’d be happy to get to the truth about vinyl chloride contamination.
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