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The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) describes PCE-PERC (also known as perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene) as a nonflammable colorless liquid. People exposed to it in high concentrations can get sick and even die.(3)
According to the EPA, this volatile organic compound is manufactured to be used as a solvent. It is primarily used in dry cleaning and degreasing, but is also found in automotive care products, cleaning and furniture care products, lubricants and greases, adhesives and sealants, and paints and coatings.(4) Even inks used by printers can contain PCE-PERC.(5)
There are a number of Industries which regularly utilize PCE-PERC, either in their refining or manufacturing processes, or in the products they produce for consumers.
PCE-PERC was first developed in 1821 with U.S. production peaking in the 1980s. Industrial emissions are the primary mechanism for distributing contamination in the environment. Today, it is present in varying concentrations in air, water, and soil samples.(7)
PCE-PERC contamination is due to industrial and commercial manufacturing or processes.
No matter the way in which the compound gets into the environment, it presents an environmental and health crisis for communities. Local governments may be required to spend a large amount of money to clean up the ill effects caused by PCE -PERC.
The ATSDR reports that PCE-PERC has been “found in at least 945 of the 1,699 National Priorities List sites identified” by the EPA. These sites are among the most hazardous waste sites in the nation.(8)
Yet, these are not all the sites that may be affected. There may be contamination sites which have not yet been detected or established.
Communities near manufacturing and refining plants have an increased risk of exposure to PCE-PERC. It may be present in the local air, water and soil.
Also, people living near dry cleaning establishments are at greater risk for exposure. Finally, those who regularly use consumer products containing the toxic compound may be at risk due to repeated exposure.
PCE-PERC enters the human body through contaminated drinking water, air, or skin contact. Exposure can have serious health effects, both in the short-term and long-term. In fact, too much exposure in a short period of time can even result in death.(9) (10)
Because of these health risks, federal and state governments have regulations and laws in place which are meant to protect people against PCE-PERC exposure. Should communities suspect there are or have been any violations of applicable laws or regulations, they should contact their local and state governments to begin testing by certified labs.
The arm of the federal government with regulatory oversight responsibilities for safe water is the EPA.
The EPA has set a maximum contamination level of 0.005 milligrams per liter as the national primary drinking water standard for PCE-PERC.(14)
Additionally, public water supplies are required to undergo regular testing for contaminants. Results of these tests are published in a yearly “Consumer Confidence Report” (CCR). The most recent CCR for your supplier is on file with the EPA and may also be available online. See for more information about CCRs.
Private wells also need to be tested regularly. Information about private well testing is available from the EPA.
Air quality standards have been set by another arm of the federal government, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
OSHA has set “an 8-hour time weighted average permissible exposure limit of 100 ppm, an acceptable ceiling exposure limit of 200 ppm, and a maximum peak of 300 ppm (not to be exceeded for more than 5 minutes of any 3-hour period)” for PCE-PERC air contamination.(15)
PCE-PERC has a “sharp sweet odor” according to an EPA fact sheet.(16) People can smell it in the air when it is present at least “at a level of 1 part in 1 million parts of air (1 ppm)” according to the ADSTR.(17)
Industrial and commercial companies are responsible for the safe use, storage, transport, and disposal of toxic chemicals from their businesses. If they compromise the safety of your community’s environment or health, they must be held to account.
Many communities across the country have already engaged Weitz & Luxenberg’s team of environmental legal professionals to represent them in their fight for justice. Weitz & Luxenberg represents clients across the country, from those harmed by oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico to those affected by gas leaks in Porter Ranch, California. Many of our clients have suffered water supply contamination including in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, New York, and Merrimack, New Hampshire.
In more than 30 years of legal practice, Weitz & Luxenberg has taken on corporate giants and won. We have fought powerful companies like Exxon Mobile, Shell Oil, and Monsanto to see that our clients get the justice they deserve.
We have a record of making corporate polluters pay for the harm they have done to whole communities. If your community has been affected by PCE-PERC, we can help you resolve this legal issue.