Research council supports EPA's classification of dry-cleaning chemical

February 25, 2010

A new report from the Washington-based National Research Council upholds the Environmental Protection Agency's classification of tetrachloroethylene as "likely to be a human carcinogen."

Tetrachloroethylene -- also known as perchloroethylene, PCE or PERC -- is a dry-cleaning solvent that can damage the nervous and reproductive systems, liver, and kidneys. Exposure occurs through breathing it in the air, ingestion or skin contact.

NRC determined EPA's draft assessment of adverse human health effects supports the cancer classification, but committee members disagreed on which PERC-related cancer (leukemia, liver, tumors or kidney cancer) provides the strongest data for EPA to estimate cancer potential.

The report suggests ways to improve the scientific basis for estimating the potential to cause cancer and safe levels for inhalation and oral exposure to PERC.