Vinyl chloride (VCM)
Vinyl chloride (VCM)
Vinyl chloride belongs to the group volatile organic compounds (VOC). Vinyl chloride is a colourless gas with a characteristic sweetish odour. It is classified as very flammable.1 2
Vinyl chloride is mainly used to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is used in the production of many different plastic products, such as pipes, thread and cable lining and packaging materials.3 4 5 Another use of vinyl chloride is as a binding agent in paint and glue.6
Sources and transportation pathways
Vinyl chloride does not occur naturally in the environment but is emitted during its production, its use in the chemical industry, during production of PVC and from waste streams.7 8 The chemical industry is the largest emission source of the large point sources in Europe.9 The primary transportation pathway is by air, but it is also spread by water. In the atmosphere, vinyl chloride only exists as a gas where it is photochemically degraded. In soil and in water, its mobility is considered high and the substance may reach the groundwater.10
Effects on environment and health
As a VOC, vinyl chloride 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.
Vinyl chloride is classified as acutely toxic, carcinogenic and an endocrine disruptor with long-term effects on humans.11 12
International agreements and regulations
Vinyl chloride is regulated by the EU Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC). The presence of vinyl chloride in products is regulated by the EU regulation on cosmetic products (EC 1223/2009) and the EU REACH regulation (EC 1907/2006). The UN Protocol on PRTRs and the EU E-PRTR regulation regulate how data on vinyl chloride emissions is made available.
As a VOC, vinyl chloride 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).