Tetrachloroethylene is a manufactured liquid that evaporates easily into the air and has a sharp, sweet odour. It is colourless, almost insoluble in water, and non-flammable.
Tetrachloroethylene is used widely as a dry cleaning agent for fabrics and textiles and in metal cleaning and degreasing. It is used in smaller quantities in regeneration of oil refinery catalysts and in the cleaning of cinematographic film. It is also used in the manufacture of other chemicals and trace amounts could be found in some consumer products, like printing inks, adhesives, dye carriers and silicone lubricants.
Tetrachloroethylene is widespread in the environment and is found in trace amounts in water, aquatic organisms, air, foodstuffs and human tissue. Man-made tetrachloroethylene is released into the ambient air, as a result of evaporation and the most significant sources are the fugitive air emissions from dry cleaning and metal degreasing processes. Waste storage sites can also provide a source of emissions. There are no natural sources of tetrachloroethylene.
Impacts on human health and environment
Excessive exposure to tetrachloroethylene may cause health effects on the brain, eye, kidney, liver, skin, throat, and there is some evidence that the substance may cause cancer.
Much of the tetrachloroethylene that gets into water and soil, readily evaporates into the air, where it is broken down by sunlight or brought back to the soil and water by rain. Micro-organisms present in the soil will are capable to break down tetrachloroethylene. It does not appear to bioaccumulate in fish or other animals that live in water. Despite categorisation as a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) tetrachloroethylene has been determined to have negligible photochemical reactivity and is unlikely to contribute significantly to the formation of harmful ground-level ozone or photochemical smog.
Tetrachloroethylene is a priority substance (EC 1179/94, OJ L131, 26.5.94, p.3.) under Regulation 793/93. The draft risk assessment report for environment can be downloaded from http://ecb.jrc.it/existing-chemicals/. The risks for human health are still under discussion by a Committee of Technical Experts representing Member States, Industry and NGOs.
Emission to air reporting threshold: 2000 kg/year
Data source: European Pollutant Emission Register