Vinyl chloride monomer also called vinyl chloride, VCM or chloroethene. Vinyl chloride monomer is colorless compound used to produce the polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Vinyl chloride gas has a sweet odor and is highly toxic, flammable, and a very carcinogenic (cancer causing) petrocheical by-product.
Vinyl chloride monomer can be produced from acetylene or with ethane. Acetylene reacts with anhydrous hydrogen chloride gas over a mercuric chloride catalyst to give vinyl chloride. VMC production from acerylene is exothermic and highly selective and yields a very pure product. Ethylene made from ethane by cracking ethane and then ethylene is used for production of vinyl chloride. The direct feed of ethane to vinyl chloride plants considerably decrease raw material costs and make the plants less dependent on its cracker capacity.
Vinyl chloride is flammable and will release corrosive hydrogen chloride and toxic phosgene. In the 1930's the hepatotoxicity of VCM first was studied and it was shown that even a single short-term high dose of vinyl chloride can cause liver damage.
Then in the late 1960s, John Creech from B.F. Goodrich discovered angiosarcoma (a very rare cancer) in the liver of a worker at the B.F. Goodrich plant in Louisville, Kentucky. According to the United States 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..." Prior to 1974 many PVC and VCM workers were routinely exposed to 1000 ppm Vinyl Chloride causing “Vinyl Chloride Illness”-with Acrosteolysis, Raynaud’s Phenomenon .
In 1999 IPCS report on Vinyl Chloride states the intensity of symptoms vary from acute (1000-8000 ppm) including dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances, headache, ataxia to chronic (above 12000 ppm) including narcotic effect, cardiac arrhythmias, fatal respiratory failure. Later in 1999 and 2006, ASTDR Reports identify Vinyl Chloride as a mutagen having clastogenic effects affecting lymphocyte chromosomal structure. According to ICAR, Vinyl Chloride is Group 1 human carcinogen posing elevated risks of rare Anginosarcoma, brain cancers & lung tumors and malignant haematopoeitic, lymphatic tumors (Source: VCM wikipedia)
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