Vinyl Chloride, Cancer and Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Vinyl Chloride [VC] is a colorless gas used to produce plastic products in the form of polyvinyl chloride [PVC]. PVC is used to manufacture plastic pipes, packing materials, and other products. VC was also used as a spray can propellant in such products as hair spray.
SERIOUS HEALTH CONDITIONS
Occupational exposure to VC can result in serious health conditions, including dizziness to liver damage. VC has been listed as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) by various agencies, including the US Department of Health and Human Services, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC].
A research study of VC workers in Italy reported, “….An elevated proportion of deaths for liver cancer was found in male exposed workers.” Alberto Scarselli, Marisa Corfiati, Davide Di Marzio, Stefania Massari, Alessandro Marinaccio & Sergio Iavicoli (2022), “The impact of vinyl chloride exposure on the health of Italian workers: an evaluation from SIREP compliance data,” Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health, 77:5, 372-381, DOI: 10.1080/19338244.2021.1900045
ANGIOSARCOMA OF THE LIVER RELATED TO OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE
Angiosarcoma of the liver, a rare malignancy, has been reported by several employers. "It is now clear that the workers in all components of the vinyl chloride industry are subjected to a serious health risk from VCM [vinyl chloride monomer]. Although conclusive proof of the carcinogenic and, in turn, the fatal character of VCM did not emerge until early in 1974 when the deaths of three workers in Goodrich's PVC plant at Louisville were reported, strong warning signals had appeared long before. As early as 1949, when the vinyl chloride industry had barely reached its tenth anniversary, a study conducted among vinyl chloride workers in the Soviet Union found liver damage in 15 of 45 workers studied. In 1958 and 1959, Dow Chemical scientists elicited liver irregularities in rats and rabbits at a 100 ppm concentration of VCM. Although Dow recommended a 50 ppm allowable level in 1961, the industry adhered to its previous 500 ppm standard.” Society of Plastics Indus., Inc. v. OCCUPATIONAL S. & HA, 509 F. 2d 1301 - Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit 1975.
“News of other deaths followed swiftly. On January 29, 1974, Goodrich reported the death of a fourth former employee from angiosarcoma; a report of the death of a fifth employee followed on February 15th. Six days later, Union Carbide advised NIOSH of the death of one of its PVC workers from liver angiosarcoma. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company announced a vinyl chloride worker fatality from liver angiosarcoma on March 1, 1974, and reported two more such deaths from the same cause on March 22nd. Goodrich reported cases of liver angiosarcoma in two of its living employees. On April 16, 1974, Firestone Plastics announced the death of one of its employees from the same disease. Finally, on May 10, 1974, the National Cancer Institute diagnosed another Union Carbide VCM worker as a victim of the same disease. In all, the deaths of 13 workers in the PVC and fabricating industries were reported.” Id. See also, Eastridge v. GOODRICH CORPORATION, Dist. Court, WD Kentucky 2015, Taylor v. American Chemistry Council, 576 F. 3d 16 - Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit 2009, “PVC Workers and Angiosarcoma of the Liver,” 17 No. 6 Workers’ Compensation Monthly, “Angiosarcoma of the Liver Among Polyvinyl Chloride Workers -- Kentucky,” MMWR 1974;23:49-50 (February 9, 1974)
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS
The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act [WCA] provides for the awarding of benefits to those individuals who have contracted an illness as a result of their exposure to toxic substances at work. Dependents may also be entitled to benefits.
Workers’ compensation has been awarded, including dependency benefits, to those exposed to VC and subsequently contract liver angiosarcoma. Drake v. BF Goodrich Co., 782 F. 2d 638 - Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit 1986. See also, Johnson v. EXXON-Mobile Chemical Co., 2013 WL 3064003 (NJ App. Div. 2012) Unpublished Opinion.
VINYL CHLORIDE CAUSALLY RELATED DISEASES
Many adverse health effects can occur in persons exposed to vinyl chloride, including angiosarcoma, liver cancer and disease, brain cancer, Raynaud's syndrome, and acro-osteolysis. The following list describes each of these ailments.
Angiosarcoma - a malignant tumor that originates in the blood vessels of the body. Angiosarcoma of the liver is the most readily recognized cancer associated with exposure to vinyl chloride. It has been found in persons who have had exposure to vinyl chloride and persons exposed to some aerosol products up until the early to mid-1970s.
The medical literature contains the following synonyms for angiosarcoma of the liver:
- Hemangioma-endothelial Sarcoma
- Malignant vascular tumor of the liver
- Kupffer Cell Sarcoma
- Reticuloendothelioma (Purdy Stout)
- Angioplastic Sarcoma
- Primary Hepatic Sarcoma
- Angioplastic Sarcoma
- Endothelioma (grades: undifferentiated, well-differentiated and anaplastic)
- Malignant Hemangiosarcoma
- Malignant Hemangioendothelioma
- Metastasizing Hemangioma.
Liver Cancer - primary liver cancer is linked to vinyl chloride exposure. Workers in vinyl chloride, PVC, and fabrication facilities are at an increased risk of liver cancer.
Liver Disease - a condition characterized by enlargement, surface changes, overproduction of collagen, and damage to liver tissue (these symptoms are collectively known as "hepatic toxicity"). This includes cirrhosis of the liver. Workers exposed to vinyl chloride are at an increased risk for liver disease.
Brain Cancer - vinyl chloride is the only known chemical or environmental agent that causes brain tumors. Tumors can occur in the brain stem, frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe. Brain cancer has occurred in workers occupationally exposed to vinyl chloride.
Raynaud's Syndrome - also known as Raynaud's disease or Raynaud's phenomenon, Raynaud's syndrome is a condition characterized by numbness and discomfort in the fingers when exposed to cold temperatures.
Patients with this condition have poor blood flow to the fingers and toes due to damage to the circulatory system. It has been found in workers at vinyl chloride and PVC manufacturing facilities.
Acro-osteolysis - a condition characterized by the loss of bone in the fingers. It has also been known to affect the bones of the toes, feet, arms, legs, pelvis, and mandible. This condition has been reported in people who work with vinyl chloride.
VINYL CHLORIDE PLANTS IN NEW JERSEY
1. PLANTS THAT MADE VINYL CHLORIDE MONOMER (VCM) INTO POLYVINYL CHLORIDE
Kearney BASF Wyandotte
2. PLANTS THAT MADE PVC INTO OTHER PRODUCTS. (WHEN THE PVC IS HEATED TO BE FABRICATED, VC IS GIVEN OFF, AND PEOPLE BREATHE IT)
Belvedere Imco container
Berkeley Heights Shaw plastics
Bound brook Tenneco
Carteret Pelamay plastics
Elizabeth Armin poly film
Evansville Continental diversified industries
Evansville Ball Plastics
Farmingdale Tedruth plastics
Garfield ICC Primex industries
Hillside Dillon Beck
Holmdel Owens Illinois
Linden Rhodes Plastics
Mays Landing Wheaton Plastics
Moonachie AEP Industries
New Brunswick Johnson and Johnson
Newark Alpha chemical and plastics
Newark Continental Diversified
Newark PPD Corp.
Pinebrook Continental Group
Piscataway Parkway plastics
Piscataway Captive plastics
Pitman CBS records
S Plainfield Edison Plastics
Trenton General Motors (Fisher)
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.
NJ Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet - Vinyl Chloride Vinyl Chloride is on the Right to Know Hazardous Substance List because it is cited by OSHA, ACGIH, DOT, NIOSH, NTP, DEP, IARC, NFPA and EPA.
NIOSH Vinyl Chloride Pocket Guide to Hazards lassitude (weakness, exhaustion); abdominal pain, gastrointestinal bleeding; enlarged liver; pallor or cyanosis of extremities; liquid: frostbite; [potential occupational carcinogen]
Worker Exposure to Vinyl Chloride and Poly(vinyl Chloride)The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) began studies of vinyl chloride (VC) early in 1974 following a report of increased incidence of angiosarcoma of the liver among VC exposed workers.
NCI: Vinyl Chloride Vinyl chloride exposure is associated with an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), as well as primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), brain and lung cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia.
IARC: Vinyl ChlorideVinyl chloride was evaluated in previous IARC Monographs (IARC, 1979, 1987, 2008) and was classified in Group 1 based on increased risks for ASL and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Angiosarcoma of Liver in the Manufacture of Polyvinyl ChlorideThree reported cases of angiosarcoma of the liver serve as an alert to the probability that this condition may, in some instances, be causally related to employment in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride resins.