The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently announced a proposal to ban certain uses of trichloroethylene (TCE), a known carcinogen that is extremely difficult to remediate when it contaminates the subsurface.

The proposed ban would disallow the use of TCE as a degreaser during metal work and as a spot removal agent in dry cleaning.

“For the first time in a generation, we are able to restrict chemicals already in commerce that pose risks to public health and the environment,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the U.S. EPA.  “Once finalized, today’s action will help protect consumers and workers from cancer and other serious health risks when they are exposed to aerosol degreasing, and when dry cleaners use spotting agents.”

The U.S. EPA identified serious risks to workers and consumers associated with TCE uses in a 2014 assessment that concluded that the chemical can cause a range of adverse health effects, including cancer, development and neurotoxicological effects, and toxicity to the liver.

Specifically, U.S. EPA proposes to prohibit manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of TCE for use in aerosol degreasing and for use in spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities.  The U.S. EPA is also proposing to require manufacturers, processors, and distributors to notify retailers and others in their supply chains of the prohibitions.

The U.S. EPA’s 2014 assessment also found risks associated with TCE use in vapor degreasing, and the agency is developing a separate proposed regulatory action to address those risks.

As well as announcing the prohibition proposal, the U.S. EPA also announced the inclusion of TCE on the list of the first ten chemicals to be evaluated for risk under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  That action will allow the U.S. EPA will evaluate the other remaining uses of the chemical.

Under the TSCA, the U.S. EPA is now required to evaluate existing chemicals to determine whether they “present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.”  Under the conditions of use for each chemical, the U.S. EPA will assess the hazard(s), exposure(s), and the potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations(s) the U.S. EPA plans to consider.  This information will be used to make a final determination as to whether the chemical presents an unreasonable risk.