Vinyl Chloride

Overview

Vinyl chloride litigation is increasing exponentially on an annual basis. Vinyl chloride is a colorless, flammable gas and vinyl chloride monomer is the parent compound of PVC, a plastic resin used in many consumer and industrial products including battery cells, electric insulation, drain pipes, flooring, windows, latex paints and vinyl sidings for homes.

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) lists vinyl chloride as a carcinogen. Plaintiffs allege that epidemiology studies establish an association between exposure to vinyl chloride and liver cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma and leukemia. Non-malignancy cases involving pseudo-scleroderma and Raynaud's Syndrome are becoming more common. Workers in the chemical and plastics industries have the highest potential exposure to vinyl chloride monomer.

Government regulation

Vinyl chloride has been heavily regulated by the federal government. The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) has established permissible exposure levels (PELs) for vinyl chloride and imposes substantial duties on manufacturers per the Hazard Communication Standard. The EPA, Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the use of vinyl chloride as an aerosol propellant in 1974. The Clean Air Act establishes standards for vinyl chloride emissions from production and manufacturing facilities and the EPA has published a water quality criteria document for vinyl chloride under the Clean Water Act. The EPA regulates vinyl chloride as a hazardous component of waste under the Resource Conservation and Discovery Act and has established a maximum contaminant level for vinyl chloride under the Safe Water Drinking Act. A comprehensive knowledge of these regulations and how they impact the product or application at issue is vital to a successful defense in vinyl chloride cases.

Although there are epidemiological studies relating vinyl chloride exposure to disease, the leading studies are based on occupationally exposed cohorts with extraordinarily high exposures to vinyl chloride. Many of the cases are subject to medical causation defenses because the exposures at issue are below the OSHA PELs. From a medical, industrial hygiene and toxicological perspective, these exposures can be characterized de minimis, trivial or innocuous. Defense attorneys must be adept at analyzing the epidemiological studies and comfortable with arguing dose response relationships at trials. Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney has a record of success in defending toxic tort cases equal to any law firm in the United States. We know the issues and emphasize thematic and focused presentations to juries.