Fact Sheet: Trichloroethylene

Trichloroethylene FACT SHEET

Brief Overview:
Contaminant: Trichloroethylene
Category: Organic
Source: Degreaser
Effect: Liver damage, cancer
Followup: Treat and retest quarterly
Treatment: Granular activated charcoal

Trichloroethylene is a colorless or blue organic liquid with a chloroform-like odor. The greatest use of trichloroethylene is to remove grease from fabricated metal parts and some textiles. Poduction of trichloroethylene has increased from just over 260,000 lbs. in 1981 to 320 million lbs. in 1991. Major environmental releases of trichloroethylene are due to air emissions from metal degreasing plants. Wastewater from metal finishing, paint and ink formulation, electrical/electronic components, and rubber processing industries also may contain trichloroethylene.

From 1987 to 1993, according to the Toxics Release Inventory, trichloroethylene releases to water and land totalled over 291,000 lbs. These releases were primarily from steel pipe and tube manufacturing industries. The largest releases occurred in Pennsylvania and Illinois. The largest direct releases to water occurred in West Virginia.

What happens to Trichloroethylene when it is released to the environment? Trichloroethylene released to soil will either evaporate or leach into ground water. If released to water, it will also quickly evaporate. It has only a moderate potential to accumulate in aquatic life.

Some people who drink water containing trichloroethylene in excess of the MCL over many years could experience 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.