Life Near PVC Plants

PVC plants are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color, making the production of PVC a major environmental justice concern for neighboring residents. PVC manufacturing facilities have poisoned workers and fenceline neighbors, polluted the air, contaminated drinking water supplies, and even wiped entire neighborhoods off the map. Consider some of the following brief examples of these very real threats:

Photo of Westlake PVC chemical plant after it exploded and caught on fire, releasing vinyl chloride and other toxic pollutants into the community.

Air pollution:

  • In Mossville, Louisiana, air monitoring conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1999 showed concentrations of vinyl chloride more than 120 times higher than the ambient air standard.
  • In Delaware City, Delaware, air-monitoring has revealed high concentrations of vinyl chloride near a PVC manufacturing facility, which is under close state and federal scrutiny for pollution violations.

Water pollution:

  • In Lake Charles, Louisiana, a jury found one of the United States’ leading PVC manufacturers liable for “wanton and reckless disregard of public safety”, caused by one of the largest chemical spills in the nation’s history which contaminated the groundwater underneath the surrounding community.
  • In Pennsylvania, the federal government is working to clean up highly contaminated groundwater and contaminated lagoons at an OxyChem PVC plant.
  • In Texas, vinyl chloride has been discovered in wells nearby a PVC plant, which was forced to spend one million dollars cleaning up the contaminated groundwater. This same company was fined in 1991 for over $3 million (U.S.) for hazardous waste violations related to the groundwater contamination.
  • In India, an air sample taken above a PVC plant’s effluent outfall into the River revealed the presence of high levels of cancer-causing chemicals like chloroform, vinyl chloride and ethylene dichloride — some of which were well above guidelines or standards.

Harm to Workers:

  • Studies have documented links between working in vinyl chloride production facilities and the increased likelihood of developing diseases including angiosarcoma of the liver, a rare form of liver cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, lymphomas, leukemia, and liver cirrhosis.
  • On April 23, 2004, a PVC plant in Illinois exploded, sending a plume of toxic smoke for miles around surrounding communities. Five workers were killed, four towns were evacuated, several highways closed, a no-fly zone declared, and three hundred firefighters from twenty-seven surrounding communities battled the flames for three days.
  • An explosion at the Formosa Plastics Corporation plant in Point Comfort Texas in December 1998 injured 26 workers and rattled windows 35 miles away.

PVC Fenceline Communities Wiped Off the Map

  • In 2003, in Plaquemine, Louisiana, a trailer park development was relocated after being contaminated by vinyl chloride groundwater contamination, but only after women suffered from an abnormal number of miscarriages in the tainted area.
  • Reveilletown, Louisiana, was once a small African-American town adjacent to an EDC/VCM facility owned by Georgia-Gulf. In the 1980s, after a plume of vinyl chloride in groundwater began to seep under homes in the area, Georgia-Gulf agreed to permanently evacuate the entire community of one hundred and six residents. Reveilletown has since been demolished.

To learn more, read some in-depth reports on the hazards of PVC.