Frequent Questions

5. How does vinyl chloride get into my drinking water?

Vinyl chloride may migrate into groundwater from hazardous waste sites as a result of improper disposal or leakage from storage containers or spills, from landfills, or from the breakdown of other chemicals. Groundwater may serve as a drinking water supply. Vinyl chloride may enter finished drinking water from the flow of water through older PVC piping made before 1977 (Fluornoy, 1999), but a more recent study (Walter, et al., 2011) suggests that the extraction of vinyl chloride may diminish over time. Since 1977, product standards have controlled the release of vinyl chloride from PVC pipes.

These product standards, NSF/ANSI Standard 14 and NSF/ANSI Standard 61, have controlled the levels of residual vinyl chloride allowed in PVC pipe that is sold and installed in the USA. Most US States require all public water supply products in contact with drinking water to be certified to NSF/ANSI 61: Drinking Water System Components- Health Effects. This standard sets limits for the amount of residual vinyl chloride monomer contained in PVC pipe and fittings, and also requires a leachate test to ensure any vinyl chloride leaching from the product is below EPA drinking water standards. Permeation and Leaching, US EPA Office of Water, https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/permeationandleaching.pdf

In 1987, EPA passed a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for vinyl chloride which requires drinking water utilities to monitor for vinyl chloride and if detected above the maximum contaminant level (2 parts per billion), to treat for it. Compliance with the maximum contaminant level for vinyl chloride is determined at the water treatment plant, which addressed vinyl chloride contamination from the water source. Public water system customers can contact their local water supplier for their annual water quality report, which lists the levels of contaminants that have been detected in the water, and whether the utility meets state and EPA drinking water standards. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/ccr .

A federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities in certain industries, which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. This includes vinyl chloride. For more information on the uses and releases of chemicals in your state, contact the Community Right-to-Know Hotline: (800) 424-9346. EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Web site provides information about the types and amounts of toxic chemicals that are released each year to the air, water, and land.

Have more questions? Submit a request