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EPA publishes final revised risk determination for perchloroethylene

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Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final revised risk determination that states perchloroethylene – as a whole chemical substance – poses “unreasonable risk” to workers under certain conditions.

Published in the Dec. 14 Federal Register – two years after EPA released its original final risk evaluation – the document states that perchloroethylene, also known as tetrachloroethylene or PCE, is frequently used in consumer products.

The agency says PCE poses unreasonable risk to workers involved in occupations including:

  • Paint and coating removal
  • Adhesive and sealant processing
  • Dry cleaning
  • Vapor degreasing
  • Pesticide, fertilizer and other agricultural chemical manufacturing
  • Spot cleaning in textile processing
  • Wood furniture manufacturing

PCE is among the first 10 chemicals under evaluation for potential health and environmental risks under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

A 2017 study published in the journal BMJ Open concluded that occupational exposure to PCE may increase women’s risk of head and neck cancer. Further, EPA found the chemical may be associated with neurological, kidney, liver and immunological effects.

In November, Michigan Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) introduced in the state legislature a bipartisan bill (H.B. 6511) that would phase out – in stages – the use of PCE in dry cleaning.

EPA says it received 20 public comments on a draft revised final risk evaluation, published in the June 30 Federal Register. Commenters included the American Petroleum Institute, which called on the agency to reassess a risk evaluation the organization said “does not take into account the unique conditions of use in petroleum refineries” nor incorporate science that has evolved since the initial risk evaluation. EPA includes a response to comments in the risk determination.

EPA’s revision is consistent with the agency’s June 2021 announcement to change certain aspects of the process under the Lautenberg Act with the objective of ensuring “the public is protected from unreasonable risks from chemicals in a way that is supported by science and the law.”

A corresponding action to that objective includes using a “whole substance” approach when determining unreasonable risk – rather than basing determinations on separate conditions of use – as well as revisiting the assumption that personal protective equipment is always provided and worn properly by workers when making risk determinations.

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