Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a colorless, nonflammable chemical compound with a sweet smell that is used in industrial applications and consumer products. A primary use of TCE is in the degreasing of metal parts. TCE is also used as a solvent to dissolve greases, oils, fats, waxes, and tars. It is also used as an intermediate in the manufacturing of other chemicals. TCE can also be found in consumer products like typewriter correction fluids, paint removers, adhesives, spot removers, and carpet cleaners. TCE is water soluble. This means that it has the potential to contaminate groundwater, surface water, and drinking water. In fact, TCE is one of the most prolific groundwater contaminants. Some estimates suggest that as much as 30% or more of drinking water sources have some level of TCE contamination. However, most regulated sources comply with requirements that TCE content be lowered below the maximum contaminant level of 5 µg/L.
People who work in factories or other industrial facilities where TCE is either manufactured or used can be exposed to this hazardous substance. Exposure can occur by dermal (skin) contact or by breathing in the vapors that are emitted by the chemical. People who live near sites that manufacture or use TCE can be exposed to TCE from breathing the air around the location. Because TCE is a component of other products, people who use these products can be exposed. Another route of exposure is the leaching of TCE from hazardous waste disposal sites or other locations where discharges of TCE have occurred. For example, TCE disposed of in a landfill can leach into the soil and groundwater below. Since TCE is water soluble, this dangerous chemical can travel through the groundwater from the place it was disposed to off-site areas, including onto residential property and into potable drinking water wells.
Exposure to TCE can come from inhalation, contact with the chemical itself, or contact with water or soil contaminated by TCE. TCE has a number of health effects that range from short-term to potentially permanent. Exposure effects the central nervous system and has similar symptoms to alcohol intoxication, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness. While some symptoms may subside after exposure, long-term, repeated exposure to TCE can cause fatigue, memory loss, depression, and poor coordination. TCE can also damage facial nerves, cause loss of senses, and irritate the eyes, throat, nose, and skin. TCE can cause damage in the major organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs.
People exposed to TCE through contaminated drinking water have been found to suffer effects to the liver, kidneys, immune systems, and endocrine systems. Some research has suggested that women exposed to TCE could suffer reproductive consequences, particularly miscarriages.
TCE is described as a likely human carcinogen, meaning that sufficient studies have concluded that TCE may cause certain cancers. TCE exposure may cause kidney cancer, liver cancer, cervical cancer, and cancers of the lymphatic system.
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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