MassDEP considers TCE as an emerging contaminant due to evolving scientific information indicating that exposure to TCE may result in fetal heart defects (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2011). In addition, TCE is a common contaminant at hazardous waste sites where people may be exposed to TCE in indoor air as a result of groundwater/vapor intrusion into residences and workplaces.

TCE is a synthetic, volatile organic chemical. It is used mainly as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, but it is also an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers, varnishes, typewriter correction fluids, and spot removers. It is also used in the manufacture of other chemicals. TCE can be found in consumer products such as metal degreasing solvents for use on cars, bikes, or as an ingredient in hobbyist products. TCE is mainly emitted into the ambient air from metal degreasing operations. Wastewater from metal finishing, paint and ink formulation, electrical/electronic components, and rubber processing industries also may contain trichloroethylene.  Due to widespread use of TCE and its volatility, TCE has been detected in air, water and is a common environmental contaminant at hazardous waste sites.'

Due to emerging information on TCE and developmental effects, MassDEP is incorporating this new information into guidance for public health protection. The new EPA toxicity criterion or oral Reference Dose, is partially based on the developmental toxicity resulting from short term exposures. Most reference doses are based on chronic or long-term exposures. EPA Headquarters has not issued guidance on how to apply this reference dose to response to environmental contamination situations such as TCE in indoor air at hazardous waste sites. As a result, MassDEP has worked to provide TCE guidance for the protection of the developing fetus.   

MassDEP Workplan:

  • Review the scientific literature on TCE and developmental effects and consider the weight of the evidence and dose response relationships for use in risk assessment.
  • Prepare guidance levels for protecting public health from TCE exposures at hazardous waste sites, taking into account the EPA 2011 Reference Dose and Reference Concentrations.
  • Review and compare anticipated guidance from EPA with MassDEP’s and make modifications as determined necessary.
  • Prepare guidance for water suppliers on the new information on TCE risks.

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