Chloroprene 101: What It Is and Why It Is a Concern

November 24, 2022



A women holding a surf board

When someone is trying to improve their health and when they are trying to support and protect the planet, there’s a common strategy in both cases: making little changes over time that add up to a large impact. It’s all about learning all the small habits or products that are holding you back from your goal and eliminating them one by one. Today, you’ll learn about one more of those products: chloroprene.

What Is Chloroprene?

Most people have never heard of chloroprene, but you have likely heard of neoprene. Neoprene is the trademark for a synthetic rubber that is used in a variety of products, though it’s best known as the material used in wetsuits.

Chloroprene is a chemical that is used in manufacturing neoprene. This is why neoprene is sometimes called chloroprene rubber.

How and Where is Chloroprene Used?

Any time you see neoprene, chloroprene was used to make that product. As we noted, the best-known use of neoprene is in wetsuits. It’s also used for many other types of protective clothing like chemical-resistant boots and protective gloves (neoprene gloves or chloroprene gloves rather than warming or fashionable gloves).

Chloroprene can also be used in manufacturing certain footwear, athletic gear, and laminated to fabrics. It may also be in products that are used in construction, automotive, and machinery, especially in adhesives and caulks.

What Are the Potential Risks and Issues with Chloroprene?

Chloroprene has been used in products that surround us in our daily lives since it was developed for use in the 1930s by Dupont. Why should we be concerned about it?

A growing library of research has found a variety of risks and problems associated with chloroprene. There are issues on two fronts: health and the environment.

Let’s start with the health and safety risks of chloroprene. The largest issue is that repeated exposure over time to chloroprene emissions has been linked to liver problems, cardiovascular issues, and damage to the immune system. Chloroprene emissions, like those that are produced in manufacturing products with chloroprene, are associated with a risk of lung cancer and liver cancer.

Chloroprene can be problematic for the Earth as well. It is not readily biodegradable, so it contributes to the growing problem of garbage accumulation.

What Is the Stance of the EPA on Chloroprene?

One of the top questions the EPA answers about chemicals is whether they pose a cancer risk. So, according to the EPA, does chloroprene cause cancer?

Most likely, yes. The EPA named chloroprene as a “likely carcinogen” in 2010. This means that there is enough research to say that there is a significant chance that the chemical contributes to cancer, but not enough to say with 100% certainty that it is a “known carcinogen.”

How to Avoid the Risks of Chloroprene

There are two steps to any mission in self-improvement: knowing better and doing better. Now that you know the risks that chloroprene can pose, what can you do about it?

It’s important to note that the health risks of chloroprene have not been associated with using products that contain chloroprene. The exposure from using these products is minimal. The health risks primarily come from exposure to chloroprene emissions in the air. This means people at risk are those who work in facilities that manufacture chloroprene products and, potentially, people who live or spend a lot of time near these facilities.

With that said, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk chloroprene poses to you, other people, and the planet.

1. Identify Potential Sources of Chloroprene Emissions

If you work in a manufacturing facility, you probably already know what chemicals are used and emitted in your facility. Many people don’t realize, though, that they may have a facility using chloroprene in their neighborhood.

Look for manufacturing facilities near your home, workplace, or other places you frequent. Find out if they use chloroprene. While there may be little you can do to reduce your exposure, being informed about your risk factors allows you to inform your doctor so they can watch for signs of problems.

2. Choose Products Without Neoprene

The more demand there is for neoprene products, the more chloroprene will be used and emitted. When you choose products that use alternatives like natural rubber, you can lower the demand for neoprene. You’ll be doing your part to reduce the health risks from chloroprene emissions and to reduce chloroprene’s environmental impact.

Learn More About the Alternatives to Neoprene

Ready to start making some changes to protect your health and the environment? Learn more about alternatives to neoprene, especially if you’re part of a community that uses wetsuits or other neoprene products often.

Yulex is proud to be part of the mission to reduce chloroprene use worldwide by offering a natural rubber that serves as an excellent alternative to neoprene. Discover Yulex sustainable rubber products today and learn how Yulex is empowering healthier people and healthier ecosystems.

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