Vinyl Chloride Known to Cause Angiosarcoma and Other Deadly Cancers
Over 40 years ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an intensive study of the health dangers of a chemical plastics plant. The review determined vinyl chloride (VC) monomer was a causative agent of the deadly cancer Angiosarcoma.
Several subsequent studies over recent years have confirmed the association, and workers in the chemical and plastics field have seen first-hand the dangerous health consequences. VC is now universally considered to be a highly potent chemical carcinogen.
Vinyl chloride (VC) is manufactured exclusively for polymerization into polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic used in various industries and capacities, such as construction, piping, packaging, wire and cable coatings, and transportation.
Vinyl chloride is also used as a combustion product in tobacco. The toxic products are also in household products such as flooring, water piping, videodiscs, and even credit cards. Global PVC production in 2002 was valued at approximately US$19 billion.
Reviews by the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have repeatedly warned that vinyl chloride is a human carcinogen. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has echoed these concerns, though the chemical still causing widespread damage. Exposure to the toxic material can cause reactions that primarily target the liver, brain, and lungs.
Vinyl Chloride Exposure Risks
Vinyl chloride exposure is associated with an increased risk of Angiosarcoma, as well as brain and lung cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia. There is also evidence that certain disorders, such as pneumoconiosis and excess fetal deaths, may be associated with exposure to the chemical.
What is Angiosarcoma?
Angiosarcoma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer, sometimes caused by exposure to chemical agents. The cancer attacks the inner lining of blood vessels, and can occur in any area of the body. The disease most commonly occurs in the skin, breast, liver, spleen, and deep tissue.
Symptoms of a VC-related disease may present many years after exposure. The median latency period for cases of Angiosarcoma of the liver is 22 years after VC exposure.
How Are People Exposed to Vinyl Chloride?
Workers at vinyl chloride facilities may be exposed primarily through inhalation. Outside production facilities, the highest levels of vinyl chloride are found in air around VC factories. Several cases of angiosarcoma have occurred in people living in the vicinity of VC plants. There is a possibility that low-level exposure to VC over a long period can cause serious illnesses.
VC Exposure in the Workplace
Workers constitute the population most heavily exposed to chemical toxins and physical agents. Exposure to high levels of VC at the workplace can result in an increased incidence of angiosarcoma.
A review of studies involving about 45,000 workers exposed to VC showed an increase in incidence of cancer. Health issues of the respiratory tract, digestive system, lymphatic, pharynx, cardiovascular system and colon and stomach were reported to show an increased incidence in one or more studies.
Angiosarcoma Cancer Clusters
In the 1970s, a cluster of cases of Angiosarcoma of the liver, a rare cancer, was detected among workers in a Kentucky chemical plant. Officials from the CDC’s Bureau of Epidemiology, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Cancer Institute investigated the workplace and determined that the workers were all exposed to vinyl chloride had an increased rate of Angiosarcoma of the liver.
Four cases of Angiosarcoma of the liver were diagnosed among men working in the polyvinyl chloride polymerization section of a B.F. Goodrich plant. All four men had worked in the toxic conditions for at least 14 years prior to onset of illness.
Medical officials confirmed the existence of the outbreak, and also discovered pre-malignant lesions in other members of the factory workers heavily exposed to VC.
Publication of this report in 1974 resulted in a series of clinical investigations and studies. Since then, exposure to vinyl chloride has been known to be a major risk factor for the development of Angiosarcoma.
Vinyl Chloride Cancer Risks
The recognition of vinyl chloride as carcinogenic stimulated regulatory activity. Consequently, the plastics-manufacturing industry developed a process that reduced releases of VC, partially eliminating worker exposures.
However, even with stricter regulations on vinyl chloride in the workplace, the question of its health effects remains in the spotlight.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data in 2012, there were 15 major and two area source PVC facilities in the United States. PVC plants in Kentucky, and Louisiana, still pollute the air with vinyl chloride. In 2014, companies reported releasing more than 500,000 pounds of VC, according to the EPA.
Angiosarcoma Lawsuits & PVC
- In 2014, residents of McCullom Lake, Illinois, settled a lawsuit in which they claimed vinyl chloride from a nearby chemical plant bled into groundwater, and thereby caused a cluster of 33 brain tumors. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had worked with the company to clean up toxic chemicals on the site since 1991. The settlement comes after eight years of litigation against a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co.
- During the 1980s, General Tire workers in an Ashtabula, Ohio plant were exposed to large amounts of vinyl chloride, years after the government set strict exposure limits. Former workers of the PVC plant, owned by General Tire & Rubber Co., were diagnosed with Angiosarcoma, traced to the chemical exposure.
- GenCorp, Inc., a major producer of polyvinyl chloride, was named in a conspiracy lawsuit in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Lawyers named a total of 32 vinyl chloride and PVC manufacturers. While attorneys requested GenCorp to disclose every case of cancer that occurred among former plant employees, the company claimed it has lost employee medical records. Lawyers allege that GenCorp and dozens of other chemical firms covered up evidence of vinyl chloride’s toxicity and influenced an industry-funded, nationwide worker-mortality report.
Negligent PVC Manufacturers
Thousands of people still work in PVC production and fabrication, making flooring, siding, medical equipment, electrical wiring, cables and other products. These workers may have a risk of illness associated with their workplace.
In addition, former workers in the chemical plastics industry are likely to have been exposed to VC toxins and may have a claim against manufacturers and employers. Any victim of these occupational hazards may contact an attorney for possible legal assistance.
Vinyl Chloride Lawyer & Liver Cancer
If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to a toxic exposure incident and have questions about the root cause and the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.