EPA Releases Final Risk Evaluation for Trichloroethylene

A final risk evaluation for trichloroethylene was issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on November 23, 2020. In this blog post, we discuss this evaluation and several of the principal findings associated with it.

About Trichloroethylene

Trichloroethylene is a colorless, liquid, volatile organic compound (VOC) with a history of use in a large number of industrial and consumer processes and products. Employed largely as a degreasing agent for metals, it has also had a variety of other uses, including as a chemical intermediate, a component of stain removers and cleaners, an extraction solvent, a refrigerant component, and more.

Routes of exposure to trichloroethylene vary somewhat based on the nature and location of exposure. Occupational exposure typically occurs via inhalation or dermally. While inhalation is also a common route for non-occupational exposure (i.e., for the general public), ingestion of contaminated food or water is a possible route as well.

Research conducted on both animal and human populations has demonstrated that trichloroethylene exposure may be linked to a broad range of harmful health effects, including developmental, hepatic, immunologic, neurologic, renal, and reproductive effects. A link between exposure and the development of several types of cancers has also been shown.

Key Findings

The EPA's final risk evaluation for trichloroethylene yielded several important findings, based on an assessment of 54 conditions of use.

  • Unreasonable risks to human health were found for 52 of the 54 evaluated conditions
    • For occupational users, unreasonable risks were found for most use conditions (with one exception)
      • This applies both to workers and to occupational non-users
      • Exception is for distribution in commerce
    • For consumer users, unreasonable risks were found for most use conditions (with one exception)
      • Exception is for use in pepper spray
  • No unreasonable risks to the environment were found for any evaluated conditions of use

Moving Forward

Trichloroethylene is among the first group of ten chemical substances requiring risk evaluation under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act). With the release of the final risk evaluation, the EPA has two years to implement necessary actions for managing the unreasonable risks found for trichloroethylene. The Agency will utilize public feedback obtained for the evaluation in this process. As the risk management process for the chemical moves forward, additional relevant information will be accessible on the Agency's website as it becomes available.

Authoritative Decision Support Information

Information obtained from the risk evaluation of chemicals is critical in efforts to help protect human and environmental health. Equally important is having a deep understanding of chemical substances, their properties, and their varied uses.

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