National Drinking Water Database
Vinyl chloride in Massachusetts
Vinyl chloride is a chemical used for production of PVC plastic; it contaminates drinking water due to leaching from PVC pipes and discharges from plastics manufacturing. [read more]
Vinyl chloride is used in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is commonly found in building materials, automotive parts, furniture, pipes, wall coverings and wire coatings. Vinyl chloride is also copolymerized with vinyl acetate to form polymers that can be used in films and resins. In the past, vinyl chloride has been used as a refrigerant, as an ingredient of drugs and cosmetics, and as an aerosol propellant.
Vinyl chloride is a High Production Volume (HPV) chemical with more than 15 billion pounds produced in the U.S. annually (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) 1990a; Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) 2001b). Major environmental discharges and water contamination with vinyl chloride are associated with the chemical industry, which releases hundreds of thousands of pounds of vinyl chloride annually (USEPA 2009i). Drinking water can be also contaminated with vinyl chloride due to leaching from PVC pipes (USEPA 2009b).
Drinking water contaminant fact sheets written by EPA note that short-term exposure to vinyl chloride in drinking water above the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of two parts per billion (ppb) may cause damage to the nervous system. Long-term exposures to levels above the MCL can cause cancer and damage the liver and nervous system (USEPA 2009b).
Vinyl chloride is classified by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) as a "known" human carcinogen, causing cancers of the liver, brain, lung and hematolymphopoietic tissues (system of blood-producing tissues such as bone marrow). In laboratory animals, vinyl chloride causes tumors of lung, mammary glands (breast), liver, skin and stomach (NTP 2002a).
Non-cancer effects noted in animal studies show that vinyl chloride alters heart rhythm, decreases male fertility, and damages the testes and thyroid. Also, exposure to high doses during gestation causes bone and renal system abnormalities (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) 1997d). Non-cancer effects linked to vinyl chloride in workers include nerve damage, immune reaction, thickening of blood vessel walls and blocking of blood vessels, decreased blood flow to the hands, breakdown of bones at the tips of fingers, decreased sex drive and irregular menstrual cycles (ATSDR 1997d).
Studies in animals suggest that vinyl chloride might affect growth and development. Animal studies also suggest that infants and young children might be more susceptible than adults to vinyl chloride-induced cancer (ATSDR 2006b).
The Most Polluted Communities in Massachusetts
2 water utilities reported detecting Vinyl chloride in tap water since 2004, according to EWG's analysis of water quality data supplied by state water agencies
Ranked by highest average Vinyl chloride level
|Rank||System||Population Served||Positive test results of total reported tests||Average Level|
|1||Witches Brook Water Company|
|1,984||1 of 3||1.67 ppb|
(0 to 5 ppb)
|2||Reading Water Dept.|
|23,693||2 of 10||0.09 ppb|
(0 to 0.58 ppb)
Health Based Limits for Vinyl chloride
|Maximum Contaminant Limit Goal (MCLG)||A non-enforceable health goal that is set at a level at which no known or anticipated adverse effect on the health of persons occurs and which allows an adequate margin of safety. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||0 ppb|
|One in one million (10-6) Cancer Risk||The concentration of a chemical in drinking water corresponding to an excess estimated lifetime cancer risk of 1 in 1,000,000. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||0.02 ppb|
|California Public Health Goals||Defined by the State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) as the level of contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. For acutely toxic substances, levels are set at which scientific evidence indicates that no known or anticipated adverse effects on health will occur, plus an adequate margin-of safety. PHGs for carcinogens or other substances which can cause chronic disease shall be based solely on health effects without regard to cost impacts and shall be set at levels which OEHHA has determined do not pose any significant risk to health.||0.05 ppb|
|Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL)||The enforceable standard which defines the highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to health-based limits (Maximum Contaminant Level Goals, or MCLGs) as feasible using the best available analytical and treatment technologies and taking cost into consideration. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||2 ppb|
|One in ten thousand (10-4) Cancer Risk||The concentration of a chemical in drinking water corresponding to an excess estimated lifetime cancer risk of 1 in 10,000. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||2 ppb|
|EPA Human Health Water Quality Criteria||Water quality criteria set by the US EPA provide guidance for states and tribes authorized to establish water quality standards under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to protect human health. These are non-enforceable standards based upon exposure by both drinking water and the contribution of water contamination to other consumed foods. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||2 ppb|
|Drinking Water Equivalent Level||A lifetime exposure concentration protective of adverse, noncarcinogenic health effects, that assumes all of the exposure to a contaminant is from drinking water. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||100 ppb|
|Children's health-based limit for 1-day exposure||Concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected to cause any adverse, noncarcinogenic health effects for up to one day of exposure. The One-Day health-based limit (or Health Advisory, HA) is typically set to protect a 10-kg child consuming 1 liter of water per day. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||3000 ppb|
|Children's health-based limit for 10-day exposure||Concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected to cause any adverse, noncarcinogenic effects for up to ten days of exposure. The Ten-Day health-based limit (or Health Advisory, HA) is typically set to protect a 10-kg child consuming 1 liter of water per day. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||3000 ppb|
Violation Summary for Vinyl chloride in Massachusetts
Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency includes the following violations of federal standards in Massachusetts since 2004
|Violation Type||Number of Violations|
|Failure to monitor regularly||67|