US EPA urges trichloroethylene users to find alternatives

25 June 2014 19:52 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday warned about the potential dangers of exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) and urged Congress to tighten restrictions on the chemical.

The EPA labelled TCE as a volatile organic compound (VOC), of which about 250m lb (113,000 tonnes) are used per year in the US. The EPA previously has deemed the chemical to be carcinogenic.

About 84% of TCE use is in a closed system as an intermediate for making refrigerants, while much of the rest of its use is as a solvent for metals degreasing, the EPA said. A much smaller amount is used in consumer products.

The EPA on Wednesday identified health risks from TCE’s use in spray aerosol degreasers, spray fixatives and as a stain removal in dry cleaning.

“EPA calls on Congress to enact legislation that strengthens our current federal toxics law,” said Jim Jones, the agency’s assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention. “Until that time, we are using the best available science to assess and address chemical risks of TCE that now show that it may harm human health and the environment.”

The EPA warned that single or short-term exposure to TCE could affect developing foetuses and that repeated or prolonged exposure has been associated with effects on the liver, kidneys, immune system and central nervous system.

Alternatives to TCE are available, the agency said, and should be considered immediately.

The TCE risk assessment was developed as part of the EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Work Plan, which identified chemicals for assessment of potential risks to people’s health and the environment.

By Jeremy Pafford