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Trichloroethylene (TCE) Fact Sheet

This fact sheet is part of a series of chemical fact sheets developed by TURI to help Massachusetts companies, community organizations and residents understand the chemical's use and health and environmental effects, as well as the availability of safer alternatives. Since Massachusetts companies report usage under the Toxics Use Reduction Act, readers will learn how the chemicals are being used and by which companies. 

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a common solvent, widely used in vapor degreasing, as a chemical intermediate, as part of cleaning solvent mixtures and as a solvent in adhesives. Due to the availability of economically viable, safer alternatives as well as stricter regulations, TCE use has declined steadily.

Due to its serious adverse effects on human health and the environment, TCE is subject to multiple regulations at the state, federal and international levels. TCE was designated as a higher hazard substance under the Toxics Use Reduction Act in January 2008, which reduces the associated reporting threshold to 1,000 lb/year (approximately 70 gallons).

People who drink water containing TCE over many years could experience liver problems and may have an increased risk of developing liver or kidney cancer. TCE also has genotoxic and immunotoxic potential, and some studies indicate that it may be a teratogen. There is also increasing evidence supporting the association between TCE exposure and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Evidence from animal and epidemiologic studies suggests that several reproductive and developmental toxicity end points may be associated with TCE exposure, including infertility in males and females, impaired fetal growth, and cardiac teratogenesis. The US Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry Public Health Statement for TCE concluded that there is a relationship between exposure to TCE and an increased risk of reproductive effects in males, however evidence is more limited for females.