Workplace exposures Chemical Accommodations/food service

EPA identifies health risks of TCE

Washington – The Environmental Protection Agency has identified health risks from exposure to the chemical compound trichloroethylene and is calling on Congress to pass stronger federal toxics laws.

Released on June 25, EPA’s final risk assessment states that TCE can pose harm to workers who use products containing the clear, sweet-smelling liquid for degreasing, spot cleaning, or arts and crafts. The agency’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics estimates 300,000 workers and bystanders at dry-cleaning operations, as well as 30,000 workers and bystanders in small commercial degreasing operations, are at risk.

Exposure to commercial degreasers has been linked to cancer, according to the report, and single or short-term exposure can potentially affect a developing fetus. High, single concentrations of vapors can irritate the respiratory system and skin and cause light-headedness, drowsiness and headaches, while repeated or prolonged exposure has been associated with chronic effects in the liver, kidneys, immune system and central nervous system.

EPA recommends using the product outside (or in an extremely well-ventilated area) and wearing protective equipment.

The agency is scheduled to conduct a workshop July 29-30 in Washington (as well as via webinar) on potential TCE degreaser alternatives and risk reduction.