What is TCE?
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a volatile organic compound (VOC) that is produced or imported into the United States, with use estimated to be around 250 million pounds per year. It is a clear, colorless liquid that has a sweet odor and evaporates quickly. TCE is a toxic chemical with human health concerns.
Where is TCE found?
The majority (about 84 percent) of TCE is used in a closed system as an intermediate chemical for manufacturing refrigerant chemicals. Much of the remainder (about 15 percent) is used as a solvent for metals degreasing, leaving a small percentage to account for other uses, including use as a spotting agent in dry cleaning and in consumer products.
Why is EPA concerned about TCE?
Exposure to TCE raises a number of health effects concerns, including for effects in the developing fetus from both acute and chronic exposure. TCE is carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure. Single (acute) or short-term exposure can potentially affect the developing fetus. High acute concentrations of TCE vapors can irritate the respiratory system and skin and induce central nervous system effects such as light-headedness, drowsiness, and headaches. Repeated (chronic) or prolonged exposure to TCE has been associated with effects in the liver, kidneys, immune system, central nervous system.
What is EPA doing to protect against TCE exposure?
- Current actions
- - 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.
- - 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
- November 29, 2016 – EPA announced the inclusion of TCE on the list of the first 10 chemicals to be evaluated for risk under amended TSCA. That action will allow EPA to evaluate the other remaining uses of the chemical.
- Previous actions
- In 2012, EPA identified TCE as one of its Work Plan Chemicals for assessment.
- On August 1, 2014, EPA held an experts workshop on TCE alternatives and risk reduction approaches on July 29-30, 2014.
- – 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.