TCE is a nonflammable liquid it is colorless. It has a sweet odor and a sweet burning taste. TCE does not occur naturally in the environment. It is an artificial compound. It is produced synthetically from 1,2-dichloroethane. And stabilizers are added to the marketed product.
What is TCE used for?
It is used mainly as a solvent to remove greases from metal parts, it is also an ingredient in adhesives, typewriter correction fluid and spot and paint removers. 75-80% of TCE production is used for degreasing metals. Because of its good solvent properties it was formerly used in dry-cleaning facilities. It is also used to extract natural substances. An example would be in decaffeinated coffee or fruit juices.
TCE effects on humans
Skin contact with TCE can cause irritation and rashes on the skin. Drinking small amounts of TCE over a long period of time can cause liver and kidney damage, nervous system effects and impaired immune system function. Also during pregnancy it can impair fetal development. Drinking larger amounts can cause nausea, convulsions a coma and in some cases death. Breathing TCE for a long time can cause impaired heart function and coma or death. Breathing TCE for a short period of time can cause headaches, lung irritation, dizziness and difficulty concentrating.
Can TCE cause cancer?
Some studies with mice have shown that high levels of TCE may cause liver or lung cancer. Also some studies of people exposed to TCE over long periods of time showed increased risk of cancer. These studies however, are inconclusive the cancer could have been caused by other things.
Could I have been exposed to TCE?
You could be exposed by breathing air in from around the house contaminated by TCE vapors from the shower water. Also breathing in common household items such as, spot removers or correction fluid. Drinking, swimming or showering in water with TCE in it could have also exposed you. Another way would be from soil if you were around a hazardous waste site. Lastly if you manufacture TCE or use TCE you could breathe it in, or have it directly touch your skin.
TCE in the environment
TCE is denser than water and sinks gradually to the bottom even in groundwater. Groundwater contamination can last for decades.
Because of its volatility, large quantities of the substance produced evaporate and are distributed in the atmosphere. It is a very minor cause of smog.
TCE accumulates in sediment and in sewage sludge sometimes to an extent that it damages anaerobes. It evaporates less easily from soil and will remain there longer.