1,2-Dichloroethane is a clear, chemically manufactured liquid. It evaporates quickly at room temperature and has a pleasant smell and a sweet taste. The most common use of 1,2-dichloroethane is the formation of vinyl chloride, used in the production of a variety of plastic and vinyl products. These include important construction materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, but also packaging materials, furniture, auto mobile parts, wall coverings and housewares.
US annual production of 1,2-dichloroethane averaged around 7 million tonnes in the 1990s. It can enter the environment during manufacture, transport or use. 1,2-dichloroethane is mostly released to the air, although some is released to rivers or lakes.1,2-Dichloroethane can evaporate rapidly from water or soils to the atmosphere where it is slowly degraded. It can persist in the atmosphere, with a half-life of 5 months, and during which it can be transported over large distances. It has a moderate water solubility of 8,69 g/l and is not expected to adsorb to particles or sediments. In water it is slowly degraded, almost not biodegraded and removal mainly occurs by evaporation: The half-life of 1,2-dichloroethane in water is 10 days.
1,2-Dichloroethane doesn't have a tendency to bioaccumulate and is therefore not expected to biomagnify through food chains. Concentrations of 1,2-dichloroethane above 118 mg/l cause acute toxicity to marine fish, concentrations above 30 mg/l, 36 mg/l and 100 mg/l cause acute toxicity to respectively fresh water fish, marine invertebrates and marine algae. It is suspected that 1,2-dichloroethane in heavily polluted coastal areas of the North Sea might reach concentrations up to 6,4 µg/l. Typical concentrations in polluted estuaries range around 0,5 µg/l and those in open seas around 0.005 µg/l.
Environmental standards and legislation