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Next On EPA’s Chopping Block: Trichloroethylene

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a risk management rule as part of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that would ban the production, processing and distribution of trichloroethylene (TCE) for all uses. TCE is used in a variety of applications, including cleaning and furniture-care products, paints and coatings, solvents, laundry and dishwashing products, degreasers, lubricants, brake cleaners and tire-repair sealants. 

According to EPA, the proposed rule is meant to address “the unreasonable risk of injury to human health presented by [TCE]” associated with its conditions of use as documented in EPA’s November 2020 Risk Evaluation for TCE and January 2023 revised risk determination.

TSCA requires that when EPA determines a chemical substance presents unreasonable risk, the agency address by rule the unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment and apply requirements to the extent necessary so the chemical no longer presents unreasonable risk. 

EPA determined that TCE presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health due to “the significant adverse health effects associated with exposure to TCE, including non-cancer effects (liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, and developmental toxicity) as well as cancer (liver, kidney, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma) from chronic inhalation and dermal exposures to TCE.” 

To address EPA’s identified unreasonable risks, the proposed rule prohibits all manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of TCE and industrial and commercial use of TCE for all uses, with longer compliance timeframes and workplace controls for certain processing, industrial and commercial uses (including proposed phaseouts and time-limited exemptions). It also prohibits the disposal of TCE to industrial pre-treatment, industrial treatment, or publicly owned treatment works, with a time-limited exemption for cleanup projects. The rule also establishes recordkeeping and downstream notification requirements.

Numerous companies could be impacted by the proposed action, including entities and industries that operate in the following areas: electric power generation, fabric mills, wood window and door manufacturing, treated paper manufacturing, petroleum refineries, plastics and resin manufacturing, paint and coating manufacturing, tire and rubber manufacturing, and iron and steel manufacturing, among dozens of others. 

Comments to the proposed rule are due within 45 days following publication in the Federal Register.