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EPA finalizes risk assessment of TCE

California regulatory agencies have considered the chemical trichloroethylene to be a health hazard for some time. Now the federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued a finalized risk assessment of the chemical that identifies serious health risks for consumers using products containing TCE and employees working in industries utilizing it.

The EPA findings demonstrate that toxic exposure may result from using TCE in workplace settings. It is commonly used as a spot cleaner at dry cleaners or as a degreaser. It is also used in spray fixatives. The EPA report finds that the chemical has been linked to kidney toxicity, immunotoxicity, liver toxicity, neurotoxicity, heart malformations in exposed fetuses and multiple forms of cancer.

This is the first assessment issued under the Toxic Substances Control Act since 1986, and it has taken 23 years to finalize it. Even now, the assessment is facing strong resistance from industry sources who maintain that it will be difficult to remain in business without the use of TCE. However, many companies, especially in California where some of its uses are banned, have already voluntarily moved away from the use of the chemical. These alternatives also cost less than TCE-based products.

Individuals suffering from health problems that stem from toxic exposure in the workplace are usually eligible for workers' compensation benefits as they recover. If there is a third party that shares responsibility for a worker's injuries, as might be the case when an employee uses a chemical product that was manufactured unsafely or irresponsibly, then the worker may have the option of filing a lawsuit against that third party without affecting the workers' compensation payments. It can be helpful to consult with a lawyer when considering such a lawsuit for both guidance and representation during any negotiations.

Source: Switchboard, "EPA risk assessment finds trichloroethylene (TCE) too toxic for use in dry-cleaners and hobby arts & crafts. Experts say to ban unsafe and unnecessary uses.", Jennifer Sass, July 31, 2014

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