Today EPA took an important step towards protecting the public and wildlife from trichloroethylene (TCE), a very hazardous mutagenic cancer-causing chemical that pollutes the nation’s water and air.
This much-delayed action is a triumph of science over special interest politics.
TCE is a chlorinated solvent used primarily for metal degreasing—most notably for jet parts—and is a widespread drinking water contaminant that is leaching from military bases and industrial sites throughout the country. In addition to cancer, TCE causes harmful effects to the central nervous system, kidney, liver, immune system, male reproductive system, and the developing fetus.
The 2001 EPA draft for TCE calculated that the chemical was 5 to 65 times more toxic than previously estimated, and classified it as "highly likely" to cause human cancer. It identified children as a susceptible population, and noted that co-exposure to some other chemicals may augment the toxicity of TCE.
The 2001 draft also triggered a decade-long firestorm of criticism from the chemical industry, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE), which together are responsible for about 750 TCE-contaminated dump sites in the nation.In the spring of 2007 the Bush Administration side-stepped the science by issuing a rule exempting the military and certain industries from laws that would put a limit on air emissions of TCE and other halogenated solvents. The exemption was challenged in court by NRDC and other environmental groups. The outcome of that process is still pending.
In 2009, the EPA staff again updated its still-draft TCE assessment, classifying TCE as carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure, based mainly on its high risk of causing kidney cancers, but also on Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and liver cancer.It is the 2009 draft with minor changes that was finalized today and issued to the public as the new 2011 health assessment, to be used to set more protective clean-up standards and exposure limits across the country.EPA (IRIS) - Trichloroethylene (CASRN 79-01-6)
ASTDR - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry
Toxic Substances Portal Trichloroethylene (TCE)