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Assessing and Managing Chemicals under TSCA

Final Risk Evaluation for Trichloroethylene

As part of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment, the agency has completed a final risk evalution for trichlorethylene (TCE) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In the final TCE risk evaluation, EPA evaluated 54 conditions of use, such as various industrial and commercial uses including as a solvent for cleaning or degreasing, use in paint and coating removal, adhesives and sealants, lubricants and greases, functional fluids, cleaning products and automobile care products, and several consumer uses.

The TCE risk evaluation contains the agency’s final determinations on which conditions of use present unreasonable risks to human health or the environment based on a robust review of the scientific data. To prepare the final risk evaluation, EPA reviewed extensive scientific literature, conducted modeling and other risk assessment activities, and collected toxicity, exposure, and hazard information from many sources.

Releasing a final risk evaluation is the last step in the scientific risk evaluation process required by TSCA and will guide the agency’s efforts to address harmful human exposure to this chemical. EPA will now begin the risk management process to develop ways to mitigate the unreasonable risks identified. Under TSCA, EPA has up to one year to propose and take public comments on any risk management actions.


Risk Evaluation Findings

In the November 2020 final TCE risk evaluation, EPA reviewed the exposures and hazards of TCE uses and made the following final risk findings on this chemical. This final risk evaluation includes input from the public and peer reviewers as required by TSCA and associated regulations. In making these unreasonable risk determinations EPA considered the hazards and exposure, magnitude of risk, exposed population, severity of the hazard, uncertainties, and other factors.

EPA found no unreasonable risk to the environment for any conditions of use. The agency assessed the impact of TCE on aquatic and sediment-dwelling organisms through surface water and sediment exposures, and to terrestrial organisms. After reviewing this data, EPA found no unreasonable risks to the environment.

EPA found unreasonable risks to human health from 52 out of 54 conditions of use of TCE.

  • Consumers and Bystanders: EPA found unreasonable risks to consumers and bystanders from all but one consumer use of TCE. Consumer uses include cleaning and furniture care products, arts and crafts spray coatings, and automotive care products like brake cleaners. Risks to consumers can come from short-term inhalation and dermal (through the skin) exposure. EPA did not find consumer use of pepper spray to present an unreasonable risk. 
  • Workers and Occupational Non-Users: EPA found unreasonable risks to workers from all occupational uses of TCE, except for distribution in commerce. Additionally, EPA found unreasonable risks from most commercial uses of this chemical to workers nearby but not in direct contact with TCE (known as occupational non-users). Common commercial uses are as a solvent in industrial cleaning/degreasing, an ingredient in adhesive/sealant removers, in paints and coatings, and in automotive care products like brake cleaners. Risks to workers and occupational non-users can come from both short- and long-term inhalation and dermal (through the skin) exposure.

Using Products Safely and Alternatives

While EPA is working through the process required by TSCA to manage the unreasonable risks found from TCE, the information below provides ways to reduce exposure.

For any chemical product, EPA strongly recommends that users carefully follow all instructions on the product’s label and on the safety data sheets. Workers using TCE products should continue to follow the label/safety data sheets and applicable workplace regulations and should properly use appropriate personal protective equipment, as needed. Additionally, safety data sheets developed by the manufacturer remind users to only use the product in well-ventilated areas.

Consumers wishing to avoid exposure should ask retailers if products contain TCE and consider not using products that do contain TCE. Consumers also can choose to not use products where they do not know the active ingredients. Examples of consumer products that could contain this chemical include cleaning and furniture care products, arts and crafts spray coatings, and automotive care products like brake cleaners.

There are many solvents on the market, some of which might be suitable replacements for TCE depending on the condition of use. For vapor degreasing, alternatives to TCE with similar performance characteristics are available. Alternatives can include using different solvents, switching to aqueous cleaners, adopting other mechanical cleaning techniques, or equipment substitution. Alternative formulations of aerosol degreasers that do not contain TCE are available. There are also alternatives available to use as a spot cleaner in dry cleaning. Recent advances in both technology and garment care have resulted in alternatives to TCE and other dry-cleaning solvents.

Next Steps and Public Participation

The next step in the process required by TSCA is risk management. EPA will propose and take public comments on actions to address the unreasonable risks identified in the risk evaluation. According to TSCA, the agency must finalize those actions within two years of completing the final risk evaluation. EPA’s proposed regulations could include requirements on how the chemical is used, or limiting or prohibiting the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, use, or disposal of this chemical substance, as applicable.

EPA is committed to being open and transparent as the agency follows the process required by the law for managing unreasonable risks from chemicals. EPA will continue to keep the public updated as the agency moves through the risk management process. Following the comprehensive risk evaluation process required by TSCA ensures that EPA has confidence in our final conclusions about whether a chemical substance poses any unreasonable risks of injury to health or the environment under the specific conditions of use. This then allows the public to have confidence in the safety of chemicals on the market.

There will be additional opportunities for public participation. Just like the risk evaluation process, there will be opportunities for public comment as EPA works to propose and finalize risk management actions for TCE. You can stay informed by signing up for our email alerts or checking the public docket at docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0500 at www.regulations.gov. 

Final Risk Evaluation and Supporting Documents

The final risk evaluation for TCE, non-technical summary, response to comments, and other supporting documents are below. Find additional documents supporting the final risk evaluation including risk calculators and the PBPK model.

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