April 25th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed stronger air emissions standards for polyvinyl chloride production facilities in an effort to improve the air quality and health in communities nearby.
The standards would require these plants to reduce emissions of such potentially carcinogenic chemicals as vinyl chloride and dioxin.
“In particular, children are known to be more sensitive to the cancer risks posed by inhaling vinyl chloride,” the EPA said in a news release announcing the proposed standards.
There are 17 PVC production facilities in the United States, most of them in Louisiana (six) and Texas (four). Other states with such facilities are New Jersey with two and Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Mississippi with one each.
In 2008, a community group in Mossville, Louisiana - called the vinyl capital of the United States - filed a complaint asking a federal district court to order the EPA to enact tougher emissions standards at PVC facilities, saying the federal agency was violating the Clean Air Act. Joining the Mossville Environmental Action Now in the complaint were the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Sierra Club.
The EPA settled the case a year later, agreeing to establish PVC standards.
PVC resins are used to make products including clear plastics, pipes, siding, latex paints and flooring. PVC containers are labeled with the recycling code #3.
Airborne vinyl chloride, a man-made chemical with a mild, sweet odor at high concentrations, can be inhaled or enter the body through the skin. The EPA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services consider vinyl chloride a human carcinogen.
Exposure to vinyl chloride increases the risk for liver cancer and possibly brain cancer, lung cancer and some cancers of the blood, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Dioxins are a class of chemicals deemed “likely human carcinogens” by the EPA. Dioxins have caused cancer in animal studies in concentrations of less than 1 part per billion, leading some to call them the most toxic substances known. A particularly toxic dioxin was present in the Vietnam-era defoliant known as Agent Orange.
EPA will accept comments on the proposed standards until mid-June.
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