Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a man-made chemical commonly found in wood finishes, glues and adhesives, paint or paint removers, and spot and metal cleaners. Exposure can have significant effects on human health. In June 2022, Minnesota became the first state to restrict most permitted uses of TCE, a ban that applies only to sites required to have an air quality permit from the MPCA.
TCE is mainly used as a solvent in manufacturing to degrease metal parts. It's also used in the production of other industrial chemicals.
Human health and environmental concerns
Exposure can affect the immune and reproductive systems, liver, kidneys, and central nervous system, and may affect fetal development during pregnancy. Long term exposures to TCE can increase the risk of kidney cancer and may increase the risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and liver cancer.
Land and groundwater contamination
At many industrial sites that pre-date modern environmental laws, TCE was disposed of onsite, contaminating both land and groundwater. In some cases, TCE in groundwater is creating vapor intrusion issues, where chemical vapors migrate from contaminated groundwater through the soil into the basements or foundations of buildings. The chemical vapors may harm indoor air quality and pose health risks to building users or inhabitants.
Monitoring, reporting, and regulations
Effective June 2022, Minnesota is the first state to restrict most permitted uses of TCE. The ban applies only to sites required to have an air quality permit from the MPCA. Previously, some Minnesota companies used TCE in their industrial processes and operated under MPCA air permits that regulate how much can be emitted from their facilities. TCE may be used by some businesses in small enough amounts that their usage is not regulated by the MPCA.