Except for the theoretical application of the Walsh-Healey Act to larger companies who did over $10,000 in business with the federal government per year, occupational exposure to vinyl chloride in the workplace was unregulated by the federal government until 1974 and what standards did exist were either imposed by state law or were completely voluntary. The Walsh-Healy Public Contracts Act contained many useful provisions intended to protect workers from toxic substances, including vinyl chloride. However, as a practical matter, Walsh-Healy might as well have been voluntary too since it's occupational health provisions were almost completely unenforced. For this reason, Walsh-Healy was often completely ignored by companies that legally were obliged to comply with its provisions.

In 1958, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act was amended to prohibit the presence of any proven animal carcinogen in food products. Until the 1980s the provisions of this amendment (referred to as the "Delaney Clause") theoretically applied to VCM as an "indirect additive" to food products stored or wrapped in packaging materials made of PVC. The application of the Delaney Clause to aerosol hair sprays is discussed at some length in the "Combined Conspiracy Case Statement" found in the Resources section of this website. Remarkably the vinyl industry (in the minutes of MCA coordinated meetings) made the considered decision not to withdraw from the aerosols market even though they were almost desperate to do so because they recognized the potential "unlimited liability to the entire U.S. population" that might result because of their secret knowledge of the carcinogenicity of vinyl chloride at low doses. These doses were far lower than the levels which persons using VCM aerosols were routinely exposed. However, they never openly withdrew from the market because of concerns that "an insistent discouragement of the use of vinyl chloride in propellant applications" might lead to what they considered "premature attention to industrial hygiene aspects of the problem." Today, it is difficult or impossible to identify VCM aerosol products the industry continued to sell despite their knowledge of the risks to consumers. (Want to Help Us? If you have any information as to the identity of aerosol products that once contained VCM, please contact us.)

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) also had the power to regulate, and, at least between 1973 and the Reagan era, PVC containers were banned from use as a container for alcohol products. This regulation was based on taste. Because of formal, signed secrecy agreements, the vinyl industry never told BATF that a better reason for its ban existed: The carcinogenicity of VCM. The FDA also had the power to regulate, and should have regulated PVC containers for food and beverages since RVCM will migrate from PVC into foods or liquids stored inside them under the right circumstances. Except for the theoretical application of these largely unenforced regulations, the regulation of carcinogens was left up to the company manufacturing or using them.

Since 1974, federal and state law has regulated VCM as a proven human carcinogen. OSHA was the first federal agency to promulgate a regulation for VCM. Its 1974 permanent standard for VCM set the allowable exposure to VCM to not exceed 1 part per million (or "ppm") averaged over an eight-hour workday, or not to exceed 5 ppm for any 15 minutes. To appreciate how low a level the 1 ppm standard really is, consider that one part per million is roughly equal to 1 minute in 2 years, 1 second in 11.6 days, 1 cent in 10,000 dollars, or 1 ounce of vermouth in an 8,000 gallon tank of gin. Since exposure to VCM can occur in VCM manufacturing plants, PVC polymerization plants and PVC fabrication plants (plants where raw PVC resin or compound is fabricated into finished PVC plastic products), OSHA intended its standard to apply to all three of these workplace environments. EPA soon followed with its own regulation, which focused on atmospheric exposure to communities surrounding VCM and PVC facilities. Other agencies have regulated VCM since 1974.

While industry and independent scientists have studied VCM's toxicity, the science remains incomplete and many questions remain unanswered.