1,2-dichloroethane is a clear, colourless volatile liquid with a sweet, pleasant odour. It is highly flammable. 1,2-dichloroethane is only slightly miscible with water.
The main use of 1,2-dichloroethane is in the manufacture of vinyl chloride, the monomer from which the plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is made. Smaller amounts are also used in the production of other chemicals, in various solvent applications, as a fumigant for stored food products, upholstery and carpets and as a lead scavenger in leaded petrol. Due to the introduction of unleaded petrol throughout Europe, this use is now very minimal. In the past, 1,2-dichloroethane was used in domestic products such as cleaning solutions and paint removers, but such applications have now been largely phased-out.
The majority of 1,2-dichloroethane released into the environment from its production and use soon will evaporate into the atmosphere.
Impacts on human health and environment
1,2-dichloroethane may cause cancer and genetic damage.
Normal levels found in the aquatic environment are unlikely to be of concern, however large accidental spills may result in harm to wildlife. Releases to land and water will be removed primarily by evaporation into the air from which it may be redeposited via rain. Adsorption to soil and sediment is not expected, therefore large accidental spills to land may result in leaching. If 1,2-dichloroethane reaches groundwater it is likely to persist for a very long time (can be years), as chemical and biological degradation is expected to be very slow. As a VOC, it is unlikely that 1,2-dichloroethane can be involved in reactions with other air pollutants that form ground-level ozone. Its tropospheric ozone creation potential is not known, but by analogy to other chlorinated hydrocarbons, it is expected to be low.
1,2-dichloroethane is listed as priority substance in the Water Framework Directive.
Emission to air reporting threshold: 1000 kg/year
Emission to water reporting threshold: 10 kg/year
Data source: European Pollutant Emission Register