EPA Considers Hazardous Chemical Designation for Vinyl Chloride

Statement by Darya Minovi, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Dec 20, 2023

WASHINGTON (December 20, 2023)—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to consider designating vinyl chloride, a fossil fuel-derived chemical predominantly used in plastics production (especially polyvinyl chloride, or PVC), as a high-priority chemical under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the nation’s primary law regulating chemical production and importation. If finalized, this process will evaluate the risks that vinyl chloride poses to human health, particularly for infants and children and for people who are exposed to vinyl chloride in the workplace. Once the risk evaluation is complete, EPA may determine that vinyl chloride must be more strictly regulated under TSCA, and possibly phased out of use. This is an important opportunity to put science to work and protect people from serious health risks, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Darya Minovi, senior research analyst for the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

“Earlier this year, a train carrying hazardous chemicals—including vinyl chloride—derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, contaminating air, water and soil around the crash site. Months later, the community is still dealing with the aftermath. This disaster highlights the dangers posed by vinyl chloride—and it’s just one of at least 20 dangerous incidents involving vinyl chloride over the past two years. Vinyl chloride is one of the most commonly produced substances in the world, and the EPA is right to examine whether it needs to be more strictly regulated as a toxic substance.

“While this is just the start of a years-long process, the scientific evidence is overwhelming—vinyl chloride causes unacceptable levels of harm to human health and the environment, with impacts from its production to disposal. According to recent research from Toxic-Free Future, more than 370,000 people live within three miles of a facility that manufactures, uses or disposes of vinyl chloride and associated products. Of those people, 63% are people of color and 27% are children. EPA must give full consideration to the effects of vinyl chloride, including the cumulative impacts to fenceline communities that are overburdened by multiple pollutants and stressors. We’re hopeful this process will follow the science, bypass profit-motivated pressure from industry, and lead to a meaningful reduction in vinyl chloride use and exposure.”