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Janet Gray, Ph.D.
Janet Gray, Ph.D.

As author of our 2008 and 2010 State of the Evidence reports, Dr. Gray drives the science behind all our work.

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Vinyl Chloride

CATEGORY*: IARC known carcinogen, NTP known carcinogen

FOUND IN: Plastics, tobacco smoke

THE GIST: Vinyl chloride was one of the first chemicals designated a known human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is the building block for PVC plastic, which is used in food packaging, medical products, appliances, cars, toys, credit cards and rainwear, and leaches into air and water. It has been linked to increased mortality from breast and liver cancers.

State of the Evidence on Vinyl Chloride

Manufacturers use polyvinyl chloride (PVC) extensively to produce food packaging, medical products and household products such as appliances, cars, toys, credit cards and rainwear.

TIPS FOR PREVENTION

Avoid plastics that contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which often carries the recycling code 3.

More plastics tips >

When PVC is made, vinyl chloride may be released into the air or wastewater. Vinyl chloride has also been found in the air near hazardous waste sites and landfills and in tobacco smoke. Vinyl chloride may also leach from containers (Benfenati, 1991) and pipes (Walter, 2011) made of PVC into drinking water.

Vinyl chloride was one of the first chemicals designated a known human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program (NTP, 2005a) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, 1998). Vinyl chloride has been linked to increased mortality from breast and liver cancer among workers involved in its manufacture (Chiazze, 1981; Infante, 1994). Animals exposed long term to low levels of airborne vinyl chloride show an increased risk of mammary tumors (ASTDR, 1996).

*For chemicals that have been shown to be carcinogens, we provide classifications from two authoritative bodies: the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, an international body) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). We have categorized endocrine-disrupting compounds where the body of peer-reviewed research indicates a strong foundation for doing so.