Perchloroethylene, abbreviated “PCE,” is a chlorinated substance most commonly used in dry cleaning machines to clean clothing. It is colorless, nonflammable and has a sharp sweet odor. PCE is also known by the chemical name tetrachloroethylene or the shorthand “PERC.” Besides its use in dry-cleaning operations, PCE has also been used in processing textiles and in degreasing metal parts. Therefore, PCE can be found in industrial settings, but also in commercial and residential settings due to its wide use by neighborhood dry-cleaners.
People can be exposed to PCE in the workplace, either at sites where the chemical is manufactured, where it is used in textile production, or in factories where it is used to clean machinery. Because of the ubiquitous use of “Perc” by dry-cleaners, it is not uncommon for people to be exposed to PCE through contaminated groundwater. If a dry cleaner who uses Perc does not observe good housekeeping practices or does not maintain the machinery that runs on Perc, PCE can be spilled or leaked onto the ground where it is absorbed by the soil and leached down into the groundwater. From there, it can reach a drinking water well or supply, or volatilize (become a gas) and rise up from beneath the ground and enter the indoor air of homes and businesses near the location of the PCE spill.
The effects of PCE exposure, like exposure to most other chemicals, depend on the level and length of exposure, as well as the nature of the exposure – whether it is absorbed (through the skin), inhaled (by breathing), or ingested (for example, by consuming PCE-contaminated water). Short-term exposure from inhalation of PCE may include respiratory irritation, eye irritation, kidney dysfunction and neurological effects, such as mood and behavior changes, impaired coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and even unconciousness. The central nervous system and kidneys may also be effected by PCE exposure. People who experience long term exposure may face serious neurological effects, liver damage, kidney disease, immune system impairments, and possible reproductive failures.
PCE has been termed a likely human carcinogen by regulatory agencies. Evidence suggests that PCE exposure could cause bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, cervical cancer, and breast cancer.
When people have been exposed to toxic chemicals, they should know their rights and find an environmental law firm that will fight to protect them. Often, victims of pollution fear that they cannot overcome a large chemical or industrial company with vast resources and dozens of lawyers. Every day, the Toxic Injury Lawyers stand up to polluters and fight to help make their client’s lives whole again. If you have been exposed to a chemical substance in your air or water, or fear that a toxic release in your community may compromise your health, call our team of dedicated environmental lawyers at 732-355-1311 or submit your questions right here online. Let us fight for you.
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