Vinyl Acetate Hazards
VAM is highly flammable and may be ignited by heat, sparks, or flames. The Vinyl Acetate Council, which represents VAM manufacturers, has published a safe handling guide to provide guidance on the safe use of vinyl acetate in facilities where it is manufactured, as well as transporting and storing vinyl acetate.
Consumers may come into contact with some of the polymers made from VAM noted in the “Uses and Benefits” section above, such as glues and paints, but exposures are expected to be very low. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that vinyl acetate may be safely used as a coating in plastic films for food packaging, and as a food starch modifier.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states that studies have shown that once ingested by nose or mouth, vinyl acetate is quickly distributed through the body and removed. It breaks down quickly and leaves the body through the breath. Small amounts will also leave the body through urine and waste.
In industrial settings workers are protected from exposure to vinyl acetate with equipment design, protective gear and monitoring. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set specific limits for worker exposure to vinyl acetate that manufacturers must abide by.
Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure of workers to vinyl acetate in facilities where it is manufactured can result in eye irritation and upper respiratory tract irritation. Chronic (long-term) occupational exposure has not been shown to result in any severe adverse effects in workers; some instances of upper respiratory tract irritation, cough and/or hoarseness were reported. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not classified vinyl acetate for carcinogenicity in humans.