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Plastic Factories a Major Source of Vinyl Chloride in Drinking Water

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA regulates vinyl chloride in drinking water to protect public health. Vinyl chloride may cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standard set by EPA.

What is vinyl chloride?
Vinyl chloride is a colorless organic gas with a sweet odor.

Uses for vinyl chloride.
Vinyl chloride is used in the manufacture of numerous products in building construction, automotive industry, electrical wire insulation and cables, piping, industrial and household equipment, medical supplies, and is depended upon heavily by the rubber, paper, and glass industries.

If you are concerned about vinyl chloride in a private well, please visit:

What are vinyl chloride’s health effects?
Some people who drink water containing vinyl chloride well in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years may have an increased risk of cancer.

This health effects language is not intended to catalog all possible health effects for vinyl chloride. Rather, it is intended to inform consumers of some of the possible health effects associated with vinyl chloride in drinking water when the rule was finalized.

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What are EPA’s drinking water regulations for vinyl chloride?
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). Contaminants are any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water.

The MCLG for vinyl chloride is zero. EPA has set this level of protection based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems. EPA has set an enforceable regulation for vinyl chloride, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), at 0.002 mg/L or 2 ppb. MCLs are set as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.

The Phase I Rule, the regulation for vinyl chloride, became effective in 1989. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to periodically review the national primary drinking water regulation for each contaminant and revise the regulation, if appropriate. EPA reviewed vinyl chloride as part of the Six Year Review and determined that the zero MCLG and 0.002 mg/L or 2 ppb MCL for vinyl chloride are still protective of human health.

States may set more stringent drinking water MCLGs and MCLs for vinyl chloride than EPA.

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How does vinyl chloride get into my drinking water?
The major sources of vinyl chloride in drinking water are leaching from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping; and discharge from plastics factories.

A federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities in certain industries, which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. For more information on the uses and releases of chemicals in your state, contact the Community Right-to-Know Hotline: (800) 424-9346.

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How will I know if vinyl chloride is in my drinking water?
When routine monitoring indicates that vinyl chloride levels are above the MCL, your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of vinyl chloride so that it is below that level. Water suppliers must notify their customers as soon as practical, but no later than 30 days after the system learns of the violation. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.

If your water comes from a household well, check with your health department or local water systems that use ground water for information on contaminants of concern in your area.

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How will vinyl chloride be removed from my drinking water?
The following treatment method(s) have proven to be effective for removing vinyl chloride to below 0.002 mg/L or 2 ppb: packed tower aeration.

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How do I learn more about my drinking water?
EPA strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. Your water bill or telephone book’s government listings are a good starting point for local information.

Contact your water utility. EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual consumer confidence report (CCR) (sometimes called a water quality report) for their customers by July 1 of each year. If your water provider is not a community water system, or if you have a private water supply, request a copy from a nearby community water system.

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