Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1988;14(2):61-78    pdf


Effects of exposure to vinyl chloride. An assessment of the evidence.

by Doll R

This paper reviews the possible effects of vinyl chloride on the mortality of occupationally exposed men and the carcinogenic effects that might be observed in the general population as a result of environmental pollution with vinyl chloride. The results of four studies fulfilling the criteria of providing substantial numbers of observations more than 25 years after first exposure and covering a period long enough for more than 10% of the workers to have been expected to die constitute the basis for the assessment of the occupational hazards. Other studies provide only supplementary information. The data permit two conclusions. First, men occupationally exposed to vinyl chloride have experienced a specific hazard of angiosarcoma of the liver. Second, any other occupational hazards that may have existed have been small. No positive evidence of a hazard of any nonmalignant disease or any type of cancer other than angiosarcoma of the liver has been found except possibly for a small hazard of lung cancer when exposure was heavy. More definite conclusions might be reached if those who have studied exposed employees could present their results in appropriate and comparable ways. A very small risk of angiosarcoma may have occurred as a result of vinyl chloride escaping into the environment around plants handling vinyl chloride in the past, but the evidence indicates that the current risk to the general public (if any) must be negligible.