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Assessing and Managing Chemicals under TSCA

Risk Management for Trichloroethylene (TCE)

Currently, trichloroethylene (TCE) is undergoing risk evaluation under amended TSCA. In February 2020, EPA published a draft risk evaluation for public comment and peer review. EPA will incorporate comments and feedback in issuing the final risk evaluation. If EPA’s final risk evaluation for TCE finds unreasonable risks associated with this chemical under specific conditions of use, the agency will propose actions to address those risks within the timeframe required by TSCA.

Learn more about EPA’s risk evaluation efforts for TCE.

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What is TCE?

TCE is a volatile organic compound used mostly in industrial and commercial processes. TCE is used as a solvent, as an intermediate for refrigerant manufacture and as a spotting agent in dry cleaning facilities.

An estimated 84% of TCE’s annual production volume is used as an intermediate in the manufacture of the hydrofluorocarbon HFC-134a. Another 15% of TCE production volume is used as a degreasing solvent, leaving approximately 1% for other uses. The total aggregate production volume decreased from 220.5 to 171.9 million pounds between 2012 and 2015.

Why is EPA concerned?

In the draft risk evaluation for TCE, EPA has made a preliminary determination that TCE does present risks to the environment. EPA’s draft risk evaluation preliminarily found unreasonable risk associated with dermal and inhalation exposure for workers, occupational non-users, consumers, and bystanders. Learn more about EPA’s risk evaluation efforts for TCE.

What can I do to avoid 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.

What is EPA doing?

Prior to releasing the draft risk evaluation for TCE in February 2020, EPA took the following actions.

January 19, 2017 - EPA is proposing to ban use of TCE in commercial vapor degreasing as a result of health risks identified in a 2014 TSCA Chemical Work Plan Chemical Risk Assessment for TCE . The proposed rule was issued under section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act, as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The comment period for this rule has been further extended to May 19, 2017.

December 7, 2016 - EPA is proposing to ban certain uses of TCE as a result of health risks from its use as an aerosol degreaser and for spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities. The proposed rule was issued under section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act, as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The comment period for this rule closed on March 16, 2017.

April 6, 2016 – EPA issued a final Significant New Use Rule to require notification to EPA before certain new consumer uses of trichloroethylene (TCE) begin or resume. This rule follows a July 2015 agreement that EPA reached with PLZ Aeroscience, of Addison, IL, to voluntarily phase-out the use of TCE in its aerosol arts and crafts spray fixative product and ensure that EPA will have the opportunity to review any effort to resume or begin certain new consumer uses of TCE and, if appropriate, take action to prohibit or limit those uses.

On August 1, 2014, EPA  held an experts workshop on TCE alternatives and risk reduction  approaches on July 29-30, 2014.

In 2012, EPA identified TCE as one of its Work Plan Chemicals for assessment.​