Photograph of - damaged vinyl siding Health Effects of Vinyl Chloride Gases, Smells,Odors - US EPA / ATSDR information

  • VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO - CONTENTS: Possible Hazards Associated with Vinyl Building Products, Production, Odors in Normal Use, or During Demolition, Disposal, Combustion in Fires? Exposure limits & exposure effects of vinyl chloride, Medical information and information about vinyl chloride and plastic "offgassing", Links to articles on diagnosing and curing smells in buildings. Level of Health Hazard from PVC Building Produ
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about hazards of vinyl chloride gases, smells, and odors, or about vinyl siding and other vinyl products used on buildings

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Vinyl chloride or PVC Health hazards in or at buildings or from building products: this article discusses possible health effects of exposure to vinyl-chloride (PVC - polyvinyl chloride) and hPVC and gives references to more scholarly information sources.

To improve clarity and provide public information we include here information from several US government sources including the US EPA and the US ATSDR, Department of health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic substances and Disease Registry

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Possible Hazards Associated with Vinyl Building Products, Production, Odors in Normal Use, or During Demolition, Disposal, Combustion in Fires

Vinyl siding with stains or moisture indicators (C) Daniel FriedmanArticle Contents

Plastic odors and the detection & source-diagnosis of many common odor sources observed some installations of vinyl exterior building siding or in other plastic or vinyl building products such as windows and trim are discussed


Level of Health Hazard from PVC Building Products in Residential Use

The argument about the actual level of health hazard from vinyl product odors (plastic smells) in normal residential use (such as odors from vinyl siding or windows) is ongoing.

Clearly the chief health concerns most sources cite for PVC building products such as vinyl siding appear to be health risks to the workers during production (dioxin, the most powerful carcinogenic substance known), and health risks later (HCL and dioxin) if the material is burned - say as waste or in a house fire. Dioxin is almost certainly released at harmful levels in those cases.

Disposal of PVC Building Products

Disposal of plastic building products by burial means those products are likely to remain intact for a very very long time. Disposal by burning is likely to be dangerous, releasing dangerous levels of dioxin and HCL. For disposal of vinyl products a different process, thermal depolymerization, has been developed to convert the plastic into fuel and minerals, but it's not widely used.

Plastic or PVC Odor Complaints

At some buildings occupants complain (to us by email) of odors and outgassing that is on occasion traced to vinyl siding, vinyl window products, building trim, or window screens. We suspect that suspect that the chemistry of gases may be different for each plastic-containing material. In vinyl siding or vinyl windows or trim the building material used would be uPVC or Rigid PVC.

We have not found a reliable source documenting the chemistry of such odors, but some sources cite possible outgassing of dioxin and HCL (probably at very low levels), and one unsubstantiated source (no authoritative citations) claimed formaledhyde outgassing (doubtful). Prudent avoidance may be in order from even these odors, especially for people at particular health risk, such as asthmatics or infants and the elderly.

Most home inspectors do not provide environmental and odor diagnosis. But if your question is tracking down the odor source, any building occupant might be able to handle this perfectly well yourself following the odor patch test process we describe

Before blaming building siding or windows on an odor, be sure you've properly tracked down the odor source. Also

The vinyl building products industry argues that the levels of dioxin and HCL (hydrochloric acid) from their products are not significant.

Vinyl & Vinyl Chloride Possible Health Hazard Information - Dioxin (potent carcinogen) & HCL

The following articles provide details about the health hazards of exposure to dioxins and vinyl chloride in and around buildings.

Vinyl Chloride Health Hazard Information - US ATSDR

Synonyms for vinyl chloride include chloroethene, chloroethylene, 1-chloroethylene, ethylene monochloride, monochloroethylene, monovinyl chloride, MVC, VC, VCM, and vinyl chloride monomer. The following is quoted from the US ATSDR.

  • Persons exposed only to vinyl chloride gas pose no risk of secondary contamination. Persons whose clothing or skin is contaminated with pressurized liquid vinyl chloride can secondarily contaminate rescuers by direct contact or through off-gassing of vapor.
  • At all ambient temperatures, vinyl chloride is an extremely flammable and potentially explosive gas that is heavier than air. It has a mild, sweet odor, but odor is not an adequate warning of hazardous concentrations.
  • Inhalation is the major route of vinyl chloride exposure; absorption is rapid and nearly complete. Gastrointestinal absorption is unlikely as vinyl chloride is a gas at room temperature. Dermal absorption is negligible.

Inhalation is the primary route of exposure, and vinyl chloride is readily absorbed from the lungs. Its odor threshold is too high to provide an adequate warning of hazardous concentrations. The odor of vinyl chloride becomes detectable at around 3,000 ppm and the OSHA PEL is 1 ppm (8-hour TWA). Therefore, workers can be overexposed to vinyl chloride without being aware of its presence. A 5-minute exposure to airborne concentrations of 8,000 ppm can cause dizziness.

As airborne levels increase to 20,000 ppm, effects can include drowsiness, loss of coordination, visual and auditory abnormalities, disorientation, nausea, headache, and burning or tingling of the extremities.

Exposure to higher concentrations of vinyl chloride for longer durations can cause death, presumably due to central nervous system (CNS) and respiratory depression. The gas is heavier than air and can cause asphyxiation in poorly ventilated or enclosed spaces.

Children exposed to the same levels of vinyl chloride as adults may receive a larger dose because they have greater lung surface area:body weight ratios and increased minute volumes:weight ratios. In addition, they may be exposed to higher levels than adults in the same location because of their short stature and the higher levels of vinyl chloride found nearer to the ground.

Reader Question: What are the health risks of vinyl siding

I bought a home two years ago that was built in the 1920's. The siding was redone, maybe 10- 15 years ago.

I've always wanted to replace the [vinyl] siding [on my home] because I was aware that there may be health risks associated to the material.

I would like to know if there really are risks to inhabitants, especially children, and what those risks are.

If it is recommended to remove the siding, what is the best way to dispose of the material? - S.V.Z.

Reply: Is Installed vinyl siding on homes a health hazard?


The principal health risks associated with vinyl siding are those that can occur during the manufacturing process and thus the hazards were or could be to workers in the siding manufacturing facilities.

Once having been installed on a home, risks to building occupants from vinyl siding or other vinyl products would occur only if the material is burned, as there could be toxic offgassing from the material in a fire.

Finally, we have received a few building odor complaints that were traced to offgassing from vinyl and other plastic products, particularly when exposed to heat and sunlight, such as odd chemical smells that we have traced not to vinyl siding products, but to certain window screen materials and to some vinyl window sashes and frames in retrofit windows.


Otherwise, the answer to your question is no. There is no health justification for removing installed vinyl siding from a building.

Should Vinyl Siding be a Removed?

We do not recommend removal of the vinyl siding on on your home unless it is badly damaged. Some early vinyl siding products have been found to be easily cracked or broken, and others to fade in color. Siding that is damaged may leak wind-driven rain into building walls and should therefore be repaired or replaced. Faded vinyl siding is only a cosmetic issue.

How Should I Dispose of Vinyl Siding Scrap or Waste Material?

When we have had to dispose of vinyl siding during construction products we have taken the material to public waste disposal sites that accept construction debris.

We have seen cases of builders who disposed of vinyl siding scraps by burying them on the building site. Not only is this prohibited in many communities, but burying a material that will not biodegrade is a poor practice that does not respect future property owners nor the environment.


Continue reading at VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH HAZARDS US EPA or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.


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VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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