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September 2011
Trichloroethylene formally classified as Human Carcinogen by the U.S. EPA

The U.S. EPA’s long-anticipated assessment, released on Sept. 28 2011, formally classified trichloroethylene (TCE) as a known human carcinogen. Specifically, the report found that exposure to TCE can lead to kidney and liver cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma; to a lesser extent, it may also be linked to bladder, esophageal, prostate, cervical, and breast cancers, as well as leukemia. Trichloroethylene easily evaporates into the air and contaminates groundwater and land. According to the agency’s findings, any route of exposure can be carcinogenic to humans.

Another recent, novel, study in 99 sets of twins found that exposure to trichloroethylene  is significantly associated with increased risk of Parkinson's disease (PD). Possibility of developing this neurodegenerative disease is also linked to perchloroethylene (PERC) and carbon tetrachloride (CCI4) exposure, according to the study appearing in Annals of Neurology in September 2011. The findings are the first to report a significant association between TCE exposure and Parkinson’s Disease -- a more than six-fold increased risk.

The greatest use of TCE is as a vapour degreasing solvent for metal parts, including aircraft, precision engineering, medical implants etc .and in dry cleaning. The chemical was also used in household products, such as paint removers, glues, correction fluid, electronic equipment cleaners, rust removers, adhesives but these have been phased out in Europe. Given the widespread usage, it is not surprising that TCE is one of the most common man-made chemicals found in the environment and is often found among the pollutants at industrial sites across the country.

Although there are strict controls on the use of trichloroethylene in Europe this finding by the U.S. EPA opens the possibility of future liability claims so urgent  reassessment  by company managements of uses of this material and replacement by safer  “drop in” alternatives such as EnSolv should be carefully considered.
   

FURTHER READING

OMB WATCH Article - October 12, 2011
Despite Delays and Threats, EPA Finally Classifies TCE as a Cancer-Causing Chemical

NIH - Funded twin study finds occupational chemical exposure may be linked to Parkinson's risk


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