What Is TCE?

TCE is a volatile liquid, meaning it evaporates at room temperature. It is colorless and has a mild, sweet smell. It is primarily used to make hydrofluorocarbon chemicals like refrigerants and to remove grease from metal parts. It is also used in dry cleaning for spot removal, and in paint removers, adhesives, and consumer cleaning products.

TCE can enter air, soil and groundwater if it is not disposed of properly or leaks into the ground. TCE is considered a carcinogen to humans, and can cause serious, life-threatening complications.

Acute Symptoms of TCE

In the short term, exposure to TCE may result in: (1)

  • Dizziness.
  • Headaches.
  • Confusion.
  • Euphoria.
  • Facial numbness.
  • Weakness.
  • Stupor.
  • Visual disturbances.
  • Ataxia.

Serious TCE Complications

Over time, serious and life-threatening complications can arise from TCE exposure. These include:(2)(3)

  • Kidney cancer.
  • Liver cancer.
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Toxicity to the central nervous system.
  • Kidney damage.
  • Liver damage.
  • Disruption of the immune system.
  • Decreased fertility and sex drive.
  • Toxicity to women who are pregnant, leading to damage in infants.

Getting Exposed to TCE

You can be exposed to TCE through contaminated air, water, and food. Exposure occurs through ingestion, inhalation, or skin absorption.

Most exposure in the general population occurs through groundwater contamination. Because TCE is slow to biodegrade, it can stay in the water for a long time. TCE vaporizes easily, so it can enter the air from contaminated water or soil.

A common source of TCE exposure is drinking or bathing in contaminated tap water or inhaling contaminated air. Even if care is taken not to swallow any water, people who shower or bathe in TCE-contaminated water can be exposed through both breathing in vapors and skin absorption.(4)

Another form of TCE exposure is vapor intrusion. This occurs when TCE migrates inside a building from the surrounding soil. Vapor can enter a building through small gaps like utility lines openings and cracks in the foundation.

Have you been exposed to TCE as a result of nearby industrial operations? Contact us now for a free evaluation.

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How TCE Gets into Water, Air, and Soil

Researchers do not believe that TCE occurs naturally in the environment. Most of the TCE in our environment is a result of industrial uses, from the manufacture of TCE to its use as a degreaser for machinery to its disposal.

Some of the ways TCE enters our environment include:

  • Industrial spills.
  • Leaks in underground storage tanks and transfer lines.
  • Improper disposal, dumping, and hazardous waste sites.
  • Evaporative loss during use.
Industrial transfer pipes

Industries that Use TCE

TCE was extensively used as a degreasing agent on military equipment and has been found in the groundwater surrounding many military bases. In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, TCE was a crucial part of the production of computer chips and semiconductors, leading to contamination of many sites in Silicon Valley.(5) TCE has also been found in more than 1,000 superfund sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).(6)

Industries known to use TCE include:

  • Aircraft and aerospace.
  • Chemical manufacturing of refrigerants, pentachloroethane, polyvinyl chloride, and some flame retardants and insecticides.
  • Computer chip, semiconductor, and circuit board manufacturing.
  • Dry cleaning.
  • Integrated iron and steel manufacturing.
  • Machinery manufacturing and repair.
  • Oil refineries.
  • Pulp and paper manufacturing.
  • Rubber manufacturing.
  • Pesticide and fungicide production.
  • Textile manufacturing.

Polluters Must Be Held Accountable

Manufacturers and industrial facilities are responsible for storing, transporting, and disposing of their chemicals properly. If their negligence has compromised your community’s water supply, they should be held accountable.

Weitz & Luxenberg is currently accepting lawsuits on behalf of cities, counties, and communities whose water supply has been contaminated by TCE as a result of corporations dumping or improperly transporting this dangerous chemical.

These corporations should pay to clean up the water systems they poisoned. They should also pay for medical monitoring and compensation for any injuries caused by TCE.

If your tap water is contaminated with dangerous levels of TCE, contact your local government and/or water supplier, and tell them it’s time to make polluters pay to clean it up.

Testing ph levels of water

How Do I Know if Our Water Is Contaminated With TCE?

Your water is considered polluted if it exceeds the maximum contaminant levels set by the EPA. For trichloroethylene, the maximum level is 0.005 mg/L (5 mg/L) for drinking water.(7) However, the EPA’s goal for TCE contamination levels is 0.(8)

Public water supplies are tested regularly for contaminants. Water suppliers are required to send every customer an annual “Consumer Confidence Report” (CCR). You can search for your most recent CCR at the EPA.

Private wells should be tested frequently, especially if you have small children, elderly people, or pregnant women living in your home. You can learn more about well water testing at the EPA.

Communities near military bases, industrial landfills, computer chip and semiconductor manufacturing plants, and chemical factories are more likely to be contaminated. Trichloroethylene has been found in at least 1,045 of the 1,699 Super Fund sites.(9) You can search for sites near your community using the interactive map at toxicsites.us, which is updated in real-time with data from the EPA.

If you suspect TCE contamination, you can have your water tested by a state certified lab.

Your Community Deserves Safe Water

For over 30 years, attorneys in our law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, have helped thousands of innocent people wronged by corporate greed and negligence. We have gone up against some of the world’s most powerful corporations, including ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, and Monsanto, to get our clients the justice they deserve.

We have a record of success at making manufacturers and polluters pay for the harm they’ve caused:

  • Helped secure a $18.7 billion settlement with BP in the Gulf Oil Spill litigation, the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history.
  • Secured a $423 million settlement from some of the biggest oil companies for over 150 public water systems poisoned by methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).
  • Retained by multiple Minnesota cities seeking compensation to clean up pollution from toxic refined coal tar products.
  • Represent multiple cities in New York and Pennsylvania where residents are suffering from PFOA/PFOS contaminated water.

Everyone deserves safe water and air. Our experienced team of environmental attorneys can help make polluters pay to clean up your water supply and ensure your community has the medical care and monitoring it needs to remedy TCE poisoning.