Fact Sheet: Tetrachloroethylene

Tetrachloroethylene FACT SHEET

Brief Overview:
Contaminant: Tetrachloroethylene
Category: Organic
Source: Dry cleaning materials waste, solvents
Effect: Cancer
Followup: Treat and retest quarterly
Treatment: Granular activated charcoal

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) is a colorless organic liquid with a mild, chloroform-like odor. Its greatest use is in the textile industry, and as a component of aerosol dry-cleaning products.
Production of tetrachloroethylene was 405 million lbs in 1986. Major releases of tetrachloroethylene to air and water are from dry cleaning and industrial metal cleaning or finishing. Water pollution can occur from tetrachloroethylene leaching from vinyl liners in some types of pipelines used for water distribution, and during chlorination water treatment.

From 1987 to 1993, according to EPA’s Toxic Chemical Release Inventory, tetrachloroethylene releases to land and water totalled over 1 million lbs. These releases were primarily from alkali and chlorine industries which use it to make other chemicals. The largest releases occurred in Louisiana and South Carolina.

What happens to Tetrachloroethylene when it is released to the environment? PCE released to soil will readily evaporate or may leach slowly to the groundwater. Its break down by soil microbes is slow. PCE released to water will primarily evaporate and has little potential for accumulating in aquatic life.

Some people who drink water containing tetrachloroethylene in excess of the MCL over many years could have problems with their liver and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.

Treat and retest quarterly.

Granular activated charcoal in combination with Packed Tower Aeration.