Solvent Degreaser ‘Known’Human Carcinogen: Federal Report

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By Pat Rizzuto

Nov. 2 — Trichloroethylene, formerly a widely used solvent, will be listed as a “known human carcinogen” in a federal Report on Carcinogens to be published Nov. 3.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which issues the report, upgraded trichloroethylene (TCE) from a “reasonably anticipated to be” to a “known human carcinogen,” HHS’s National Toxicology Program said in a Federal Register notice to be published Nov. 3.

The HHS classification is consistent with the conclusion the Environmental Protection Agency reached in 2011, when it deemed the solvent to be “carcinogenic to humans” by all routes of exposure.

The Dow Chemical Co., PPG Industries Inc. and GreenChem Industries LLC are among the U.S. companies that made or imported 225 million pounds of TCE in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available.

Trichloroethylene also is made in or imported into the European Economic Area.

European registrants include Arkema France, Banner Chemicals Ltd. and Dow subsidiary Blue Cube Spinco Inc., which say their combined production ranges between 10,000 and 100,000 metric tons (11,023-110,231 U.S. tons) annually.

Legacy Concerns, Current Uses

Trichloroethylene has been found on at least 1,045 of the 1,699 current or former Superfund sites, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

The solvent has two major uses, that agency says. First it is used to make other chemicals, especially the refrigerant, HFC-134a and, as a solvent, it removes grease from metal parts. Minor uses include as a spotting agency in dry cleaners, the toxic substances agency said.

Two proposed rules developed by the Environmental Protection Agency that would restrict certain uses of trichloroethylene are under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

EPA’s first rule would restrict, ban or otherwise address health risks the agency identified with commercial vapor degreasing operations that use the solvent.

The second rule would address health risks EPA identified when trichloroethylene is used as a spotting agent in dry cleaning and in commercial and consumer aerosol spray degreasers.

The health concerns the EPA seeks to mitigate include the solvent’s potential to cause cancer and its and a wide range of other harms including immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity and developmental toxicity such as potential fetal cardiac defects.

Cobalt, Viruses

The 14th Report on Carcinogens, which the Natonal Toxicology Program will release, will list six new substances.

These six include five viruses found to cause cancer in people: Epstein Bar virus, Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus, human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1, human immunodeficiency virus-type 1, and Merkel cell polyomavirus.

The report will list cobalt and cobalt compounds that release electrically charged atoms, or “ions,” in the body as reasonably anticipated to cause human cancer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington, D.C., at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

For More Information

The new and updated findings that will be in the 14th Report on Carcinogens are announced in the National Toxicology Program’s Nov. 3 Federal Register notice, which is available at

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