Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM)
Although VCM is a dangerous substance in terms of flammability and reactivity it can be distributed and handled safely provided that appropriate precautions are observed.
Distribution is already subject to regulations within most countries in Europe. In addition, international movement by road, rail, sea and inland waterways is subject to agreements that lay down specific requirements that must be observed by all parties involved. National regulations may also contain additional requirements.
As part of its commitment to the Responsible Care© programme of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), the European PVC industry prepared additional guidelines. These cover all aspects of transport activity from loading to delivery.
A copy of the full guidelines can be obtained from the ECVM secretariat. The PVC industry is also endeavouring to reduce as much as possible the small exposure of local populations to VCM. Guidelines for monitoring such exposure have also been developed.
Residual monomer in PVC
Trace amounts of un-reacted VCM can be found in PVC, but their concentrations are so low that the processing and use of PVC products is perfectly safe. Food packaging and medical appliances require even more stringent safety measures.
Voluntary limit of residual monomer in PVC
In 1995, as part of the Industry Charter, ECVM members agreed to set a limit of 1 gramme residual VCM/ton of suspension PVC sold for food or medical applications and 5 g/ton for suspension PVC sold for general purpose applications. In 1998, ECVM members committed to keep VCM concentration in final regular emulsion PVC product below 1 g/ton PVC.
Standards for medical equipment
Another example of measures on possible residual VCM is the case of medical PVC products including blood bags, liquid/blood transfusion sets, artificial heart lung apparatus and artificial kidneys.
The European Pharmacopoeia and other regulatory standards stipulate that the PVC material used in the production of medical devices must not contain more than 1 ppm VCM. In practice these devices typically contain less than 0.01 ppm VCM.
Standards for food contact applications
In January 1978 Directive 78/142/EEC set a limit of 1 mg VCM/kg for all materials and articles that are intended to come into contact with foodstuffs. The same directive states that vinyl chloride should not be detectable in foodstuffs by a specified test method, which has a detection limit of 0.01 mg/kg (10 ppb).