February 27, 2020

EPA: TCE Use Presents "Unreasonable" Risks for Workers, Consumers

A new draft risk evaluation published by EPA on Feb. 26 identifies “unreasonable risk associated with dermal and inhalation exposure” to the solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE. The draft document describes how workers, consumers, and bystanders could be adversely affected by TCE under all but one condition of use evaluated by the agency. EPA evaluated 54 potential uses of TCE, including as a degreasing solvent and a spot cleaner in dry cleaning. It only found consumer use of pepper spray to not present an unreasonable risk.

According to EPA, TCE has a wide range of uses in consumer and commercial products and in industry. The agency estimates that nearly 85 percent of TCE’s annual production volume is used as an intermediate in the manufacture of HFC-134a, a hydrofluorocarbon.

EPA urges workers and others who use products containing TCE to follow label and safety data sheet instructions, adhere to applicable workplace regulations, and use appropriate personal protective equipment. According to the agency, some solvents on the market might be suitable alternatives for certain uses of TCE. For example, alternative formulations of aerosol degreasers are available, and recent advances in technology and garment care have led to alternatives to TCE as a dry-cleaning solvent.

EPA is accepting comments on its draft risk evaluation until April 27, 2020. The Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals—a federal advisory committee charged with providing scientific advice, information, and recommendations to EPA on chemicals regulated under Toxic Substances Control Act legislation—will also review the draft risk evaluation during a meeting that will be held March 24–26, 2020, in Washington, D.C. EPA urges individuals to submit comments on the draft risk evaluation by March 18 to allow the committee time to review them prior to the meeting. Comments submitted after March 18 and before the April 27 deadline will still be considered. More information about the public comment period is available in the docket on Regulations.gov.

EPA’s new draft risk evaluation of TCE is the eighth that EPA has published under the amended TSCA legislation. As amended by the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, TSCA requires EPA to complete risk evaluations for 10 chemicals, including TCE, within three to three-and-a-half years. EPA has yet to issue draft risk evaluations for the remaining two chemicals: asbestos and tetrachloroethylene.

More information on EPA’s risk evaluation for TCE, including a PDF copy of the draft document, is available on the agency’s website.