Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) pipe is glued by first applying a primer to soften the pipe and then securing it with liquid PVC cement which melds the pieces together through a chemical process called solvent welding. Depending on the brand you use, the PVC primer and cement will contain some or all or the following hazardous ingredients: Cyclohexanone, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, tetrahydrofuran, acetone. For the purposes of this article, we will assume exposure to all of the above chemicals.
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The vapours from PVC cement are highly flammable and can cause flash fire or explosion. In ventilated areas, the vapours can travel considerable distances. In nonventilated areas they may remain for weeks since they are heavier than air and cannot be relied on to dissipate naturally. The fire hazard remains even after the cement has dried. An incident was reported at a coal-prep plant where a spark from an arc welder caused an explosion in a nearby PVC pipe, which had been glued five weeks earlier.
When inhaled, vapours from PVC cement will irritate the mucous membranes of the nose and throat and may cause respiratory difficulty. In high concentrations, they can cause headache, dizziness and nausea. In extreme cases, the central nervous system could be affected severely enough to result in narcosis, a chemical-induced stupor.
If PVC cement is ingested, it can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and possibly liver or kidney damage.
Vapours from PVC cement can be irritating to the eyes. Direct contact will result in a burning, stinging sensation, watery eyes and inflammation of the conjunctiva.
Skin contact with PVC cement can result in redness, itching and pain.
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