EPA Proposes Ban on Most Uses of PCE

by | Jul 27, 2023

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to address the unreasonable risk of human health impacts presented by tetrachloroethylene (aka perchloroethylene, or PCE) under its conditions of use. The proposed ban is based on EPA’s December 2020 risk evaluation for PCE and December 2022 revised risk determination for PCE, which were prepared in accordance with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The proposed rule calls for a prohibition on most industrial and commercial uses of PCE. For PCE uses that are not subject to the proposed ban, development and implementation of a PCE workplace chemical protection program would be required.


What Is PCE?

PCE is a non-flammable, colorless liquid with a sweet odor that quickly evaporates into the air. The primary routes of exposure to PCE in industrial settings are inhalation and dermal contact.

PCE exposure may irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and respiratory system. There is evidence that chronic inhalation exposure to PCE may cause cancer. In addition, liver damage may be caused by inhalation and dermal exposures to PCE.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that employers strive to eliminate the use of PCE or use safer alternatives as a substitute for PCE in an effort to prevent workplace exposures and avoid health impacts associated with PCE. Safety Data Sheets contain detailed information on the hazards posed by PCE and its chemical properties.


How Is PCE Used?

PCE is widely used in many industries today and is favored due to its effective solvent properties. PCE is used to dry clean clothing and other fabrics. It is also used to degrease metal parts and as an ingredient in a variety of chemical products including paint removers, cleaners, glue, etc.

Workers involved in PCE handling or processing are at risk of being exposed to PCE.


How Would EPA’s Proposed Rule Affect Organizations?

The EPA’s proposal includes, but is not limited to, the following requirements:

  • For all consumer uses, the manufacturing, processing, and distribution of PCE would be prohibited.
  • Most industrial and commercial uses of PCE would be prohibited, including importing PCE.
  • A 10-year phaseout of PCE use in commercial dry cleaning.
  • Notification and recordkeeping requirements that would apply to PCE manufacturers (including importers), processors, and distributors.

The EPA is proposing to fully implement most of the regulations within 24 months, except for the 10-year phaseout that would apply to the use of PCE in dry cleaning.

In addition to the conditions listed above, EPA’s proposed rule includes provisions for strict workplace protections that would apply to PCE uses that are not subject to the ban, in order to ensure that workers will not be harmed. PCE workplace chemical protection programs (WCPP) would have to be developed and implemented for the remaining PCE uses. The WCPP would include stringent measures to prevent direct dermal contact with PCE and to maintain PCE concentrations at safe levels determined based on inhalation exposure limits. To read more about this in detail, visit the EPA’s Risk Management for PCE webpage.

Walden is actively tracking developments related to this proposal as they are being rolled out. Reach out to Walden today at 516-701-1681 to learn about how this all might affect you and how we can work with you to help you navigate the proposed changes.

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Contact Walden at 516-701-1681 to discuss the EPA’s proposed PCE ban, and check out our posts on regulatory updates to learn about other recent changes!