DCE, 1,2-dikloretan (C2H4Cl2)
1,2-dichlorethane is a chlorinated solvent and belongs to the group volatile organic compounds (VOC). 1,2-dichloroethane is also called ethylene dichloride and is a clear, volatile liquid with a sweet odour. It is very flammable.1
The majority of 1,2-dichloroethane is used for production of vinyl chloride, which in turn is used to produce various plastics and vinyl products. Vinyl plastics are used in many applications such as in construction material, packaging, furniture and household utensils. 1,2-dichloroethane is also used as a solvent and in the past also as an additive in leaded gasoline.2
Sources and transportation pathways
1,2-dichloroethane does not occur naturally in the environment but is emitted during production and use within the chemical industry and from waste streams.3 4 5 Emissions mainly occur as diffuse emissions to air. In the air, the substance is photochemically degraded within a few months but can prior to that travel long distances. In water and in soil, most 1,2-dichloroethane evaporates to the air. It degrades very slowly in water, but since much of it evaporates only small amounts are taken up by plants and animals. In the event of large emissions to land, such as during an accident, larger amounts of 1,2-dichlorethane may reach the groundwater and contaminate the drinking water.6
Effects on environment and health
1,2-dichlorethane is classified as a substance to be phased out.7 As a VOC, it can be involved in the formation of ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone may damage vegetation and during episodes of elevated VOC levels, it may cause irritation of the respiratory tract in humans. There is no evidence that the substance poses a risk to aquatic organisms.8
The substance is toxic and may affect the nervous system, liver, kidneys and lungs if large amounts are inhaled or digested. Severe skin exposure to the gas or liquid may cause cold-burns and heating of the substance gives rise to poisonous and corrosive gases. 1,2-dichloroethane is carcinogenic.9
Humans may be exposed to 1,2-dichloroethane by inhalation or digestion of contaminated water. Lower concentrations of 1,2-dichloroethane may be present in the air close to industries where the substance is produced or used, or in old household products containing the substance. Low concentrations are not likely to cause any harm to humans.10
International agreements and regulations
1,2-dichloroethane is regulated by the EU Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC) and the EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC). The presence of 1,2-dichloroethane in products is regulated by the EU regulation on cosmetic products (EC 1223/2009) and the EU REACH regulation (EC 1907/2006). The UN Rotterdam Convention regulates international trade with 1,2-dichloroethane. The UN Protocol on PRTRs and the EU E-PRTR regulation regulate how data on 1,2-dichloroethane emissions is made available.
As a VOC, 1,2-dichloroethane is indirectly regulated by the UN Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as by the EU National Emissions Ceilings Directive (2001/81/EC) and the EU Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU).