EPA Proposes Ban on Toxic Solvent Trichloroethylene

The agency is now accepting public comments

Hazard sign
Concerns over trichloroethylene have led to bodies of water being isolated.
Smiley N. Pool/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

As per a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to enough of a solvent called trichloroethylene — also known as TCE — can cause “dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, confusion, nausea, unconsciousness, liver damage, and even death.” Trichloroethylene has been responsible for pollution at multiple sites in Massachusetts; earlier this year, scientists published a paper linking it to Parkinson’s disease.

And now, the EPA has taken steps to reduce the harm that trichloroethylene can do in the future. On October 23, the EPA announced its support of a ban on the substance — one that would ban it outright in commercial products and severely restrict its use in industrial settings.

“The science is loud and clear on TCE,” EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe said in a statement. “It is a dangerous toxic chemical and proposing to ban it will protect families, workers, and communities.”

As Rebecca Trager reported at Chemistry World, the EPA is now accepting comments in a 45-day window that began on October 23. Under the EPA’s current recommendations, Trager writes, trichloroethylene would be phased out within a year in the vast majority of settings.

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At least one of the industrial uses of trichloroethylene cited by the EPA could dovetail with a growing subset of the automotive industry. The EPA’s announcement includes “battery separators used to make electric vehicle batteries” as one of the cases in which regulations would provide a longer period to transition away from the use of TCE, as well as increasing protection to workers encountering TCE in their jobs.

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