Tetrachloroethylene Profile

INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS  PROBABLE CARCINOGEN (IARC 2A)

CAS No. 127-18-4
IARC Monograph Vol. 63, 1995 (Group 2A)
IARC Monograph Vol. 106, 2014 (Group 2A)

Tetrachloroethylene Profile

General Information

Tetrachloroethylene, used commercially since the early 1900s, has been an important chlorinated solvent worldwide.[1] Tetrachloroethylene is a colourless, volatile liquid with an ether-like odour.[2] It is also commonly referred to as perchloroethylene or PERC.[3] There are numerous other synonyms and product names; see the Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) for more information.[3]

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified tetrachloroethylene as Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence in animals and limited evidence in humans.[4] Exposure to PERC has been associated with bladder cancer in humans. It is known to cause leukemia in rats and liver cancer in mice, as well as kidney cancer in male rats.[2]

Other adverse health effects associated with PERC exposure include skin irritation and burns, depression of the central nervous system, liver and kidney damage, and reproductive effects.[1,3]

Regulations and Guidelines

Occupational Exposure Limits (OEL)[5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19]

Canadian Jurisdictions OEL (ppm)
Canada Labour Code 25
100 [stel]
AB, BC, MB, NB, NL, NS, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, NT 25
100 [stel]
YT 100 [sk]
150 [stel] [sk]
Other Jurisdiction OEL (ppm)
ACGIH 2018 TLV 25
100 [stel]
ppm = parts per million
stel = short term exposure limit (15 min. maximum)
sk = easily absorbed through skin
ACGIH = American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists
TLV = threshold limit value

Canadian Environmental Guidelines

Jurisdiction Limit Year
Canadian and Ontario Drinking Water Guidelines 0.01 mg/L 2017[20], 2016[21]
Quebec Drinking Water Standards MAC = 25 μg/L 2014[22]
BC’s Contaminated Sites Regulation, BC Reg 375/96

Sets soil standards for the protection of human health:
Agricultural and low density residential sites: 250 μg/g
Urban park and high density residential sites: 500 μg/g
Commercial sites: 1,500 μg/g
Industrial sites: 40,000 μg/gDrinking water: 800 µg/L

Sets vapour standards for the protection of human health:
Agricultural, urban park, residential use standard: 40 μg/m3
Commercial use standard: 100 μg/m3
Industrial use standard: 350 μg/m3
Parkade use standard: 300 μg/m3
(Vapours derived from soil, sediment, or water)

2017[23]
Cosmetic Ingredients Hotlist Not Permitted 2015[24]
MAC = maximum allowable concentration
μG/L = micrograms per litre

Tetrachloroethylene was not included in other Canadian environmental guidelines reviewed.[25,26,27,28]

Canadian Agencies/Organizations

Agency Designation/Position Year
Health Canada DSL – low priority substance (already risk managed) 2006[29]
CEPA Schedule 1, paragraph ‘a’ 2013[30]
National Classification System for Contaminated Sites Rank = “High hazard” 2008[31]
Tetrachloroethylene in Dry Cleaning Regulations PERC must be used in a closed-loop, dry to dry machine
May not be used for spot treatments*
2004[32]
Environment Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory NPRI Part (Threshold Category): 1A, Reportable to NPRI if manufactured, processed, or otherwise used at quantities greater than: 10 tonnes 2016[33]
CEPA 2003: Solvent Degreasing Regulations Users of >1,000 kg/yr of PERC for cold or vapour degreasing must comply with the regulations 2011[34]
* See the compliance guide for further discussion of these and several other rules for use of PERC in dry cleaning.
DSL = domestic substance list
CEPA = Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Tetrachloroethylene was not included in other Canadian chemical listings reviewed.[35,36]

Main Uses

Tetrachloroethylene is used primarily for dry cleaning and as an intermediate in chemical synthesis.[37] It is also used as a metal degreaser and in paint removers, printing inks, spot removers, automotive cleaners, and adhesives.[2] PERC is often used in combination with another chlorinated solvent called trichloroethylene (or TCE). Please see the CAREX Profile for TCE for more information.

PERC is used for its ability to remove fats, greases, waxes, and oils from fabric without damaging it.[38] It was introduced to the dry cleaning industry in the 1930s, replacing stain removers commonly used at that time (benzene, gasoline, kerosene, and camphene).[39] Regulations stipulating the use of PERC in dry cleaning businesses and establishing reporting requirements on PERC’s import, recycling, sale, and use, were introduced in 2003 and amended in 2011. The PERC regulations aimed to reduce the use of PERC in dry cleaning to 1,600 tonnes per year. Currently, drycleaners are using approximately 600 tonnes per year.[40]

Canadian regulations passed in 2003 require the metal degreasing industry to decrease consumption of PERC and TCE by 65% between 2007-2021.[25] This reduction level has been met. Currently, 88% fewer consumption units are issued annually compared to when the regulations were passed.[40]

Canadian Production and Trade

Production and Trade

Activity Quantity Year
Export 182 t of ‘tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene)’ 2015[40]
Import 7,110 t of ‘tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene)’ 2015[41]
T = TONNE

Environmental Exposures Overview

The most important routes of exposure to tetrachloroethylene for the general public are ingesting contaminated water and inhaling ambient air.[3] Improper disposal and releases from dry cleaning facilities and landfills can lead to groundwater contamination and potential environmental exposures.[42]

Between 1994 and 2007, several provinces monitored water supplies for PERC; it was detected in no more than 4% of samples, and only one sample from all provinces contained concentrations greater than 10 micrograms/L.[42] Tetrachloroethylene has also been found in samples of Canadian drinking water.[37] CAREX Canada’s environmental estimates indicate that PERC concentrations in Canadian drinking water do not result in an increased cancer risk (moderate data quality).

The general public may be exposed to PERC by frequenting or living near dry cleaning businesses or via contact with freshly dry cleaned clothing.[2] There is evidence to suggest that family members of workers employed at dry cleaning facilities are more exposed to PERC than the general population.[43] CAREX Canada estimates that PERC levels in outdoor air do not result in an increased risk of cancer (high data quality). However, our estimates indicate that PERC concentrations in indoor air do result in an increased risk of cancer (low to moderate data quality).

PERC has been detected in dairy products, meats, oils and fats, beverages, fruits and vegetables, bread, fish, shellfish, and marine mammals.[37] CAREX Canada estimates that PERC levels in food and beverages do not result in an increased risk of cancer in Canada (very low data quality).

Searches of Environment Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) and the US Household Products Database yielded the following results on current potential for exposure to PERC in Canada:

NPRI and US Household Products Database

NPRI 2015[44]
Substance name: ‘Tetrachloroethylene’
Category Quantity Industry
Released into Environment 115 t plastic product manufacturing, other chemical product manufacturing, waste treatment and disposal, textile and fabric finishing and fabric coating (28 facilities)
Disposed of 133 t
Sent to off-site recycling 125 t
US Household Products 2015[45]
Search Term Quantity Product Type
‘Tetrachloroethylene’ 37 Auto brake cleaners (17), adhesives (8), lubricants (4), auto degreaser (3), auto cooling cleaner (1),engine dryer (1), silver polish (1), carpet stain removers (1), fabric protectant (1)
t = tonne

For more information, see the environmental exposure estimate for tetrachloroethylene.

Occupational Exposures Overview

Inhalation is the most important route of occupational exposure to tetrachloroethylene.[1]

CAREX Canada estimates that approximately 15,000 Canadians are exposed to PERC in their workplaces.The largest industrial groups exposed include printing and related support work, followed by dry cleaning and laundry services, and plastic product manufacturing. The largest occupational group exposed to tetrachloroethylene is printing press operators. Other exposed groups include dry cleaning and laundry workers, labourers in textile processing, and chemical technologists and technicians. Workers performing metal degreasing, producing fluorocarbons, and producing chemicals are also at risk of exposure to
tetrachloroethylene.[2]

For more information, see the occupational exposure estimate for tetrachloroethylene.

Sources

1. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). IARC monograph summary, Volume 63 (1995) (PDF)
2. National Toxicology Program (NTP). 14th Report on Carcinogens for Tetrachloroethylene (2016) (PDF)
3. US National Library of Medicine. Hazardous Substances Data Bank (Search term: ‘Tetrachloroethylene’)
4. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Monograph summary Tetrachloroethylene, Volume 106 (2014) (PDF)
9. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Regulation 5,12 Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (2012)
10. Government of the Northwest Territories. Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, R-039-2015 (2016) (PDF)
12. The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). Government of Nunavut’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, Nu Reg 003-2016 (2010)
15. Government of Prince Edward Island. Occupational Health and Safety Act Regulations Chapter 0-1 (2013) (PDF)
17. Government of Saskatchewan. The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996 (2016) (PDF)
18. The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). Yukon’s Occupational Health Regulations, O.I.C. 1986/164 (2012) (PDF)
19. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Annotated PELs (2018)
21. The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards, O Reg 169/03 (2017)
22. The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). Regulation respecting the quality of drinking water, CQLR c Q-2, r 40 (2014)
23. Government of British Columbia. Contaminated Sites Regulation B.C. Reg. 375/96 (2017)
24. Health Canada. Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist (2014)
27. Alberta Environment. Alberta Ambient Air Quality Objectives (2016) (PDF)
28. Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Ontario’s Ambient Air Quality Criteria (2012) (PDF)
29. Health Canada. Prioritization of the DSL (2006)
30. Environment and Climate Change Canada. CEPA List of Toxic Substances (1999)
31. Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). National Classification System for Contaminated Sites (2008) (PDF)
32. Environment and Climate Change Canada. Tetrachloroethylene Regulations: Compliance Guide for Dry Cleaners (2018)
34. Ministry of Justice. CEPA 2003 Solvent Decreasing Regulations (Amended 2011)
36. International Joint Commission (IJC). Revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978 (1978) (PDF)
38. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Toxological Profile: Tetrachloroethylene (2014) (PDF)
39. State Coalition for Remediation of Drycleaners. Chemicals Used in Drycleaning Operations (2009) (PDF)
40. Environment and Climate Change Canada. Information received through personal correspondence (RS)
41. International Trade Centre. TradeMap (Free subscription required)
43. Aggazzotti G, Fantuzzi G, Predieri G, Righi E, Moscardelli S. “Indoor exposure to perchloroethylene (PCE) in individuals living with dry-cleaning workers.”Sci Total Environ 1994;156(2):133-137.
44. Environment and Climate Change Canada.National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) Facility Search (Substance name: ‘Tetrachloroethylene’)
45. US National Library of Medicine. Household Products Database (HPD) (Search term: ‘Tetrachloroethylene’)

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