Trichloroethylene is a manufactured chemical. It is a dense, colourless liquid, with a slightly sweet odour. It is poorly soluble in water, is highly volatile, and poorly flammable.
More than 80% of trichloroethylene is used for vapour degreasing and cleaning of metal parts. Trichloroethylene is also used in adhesives, for synthesis in the chemical industry as a feedstock for the CFC substitutes, HCFCs and HFCs, and as a solvent for various products. In the past it was used as a grain fumigant and has had a limited application as an anaesthetic for medical and dental use.
Release of trichloroethylene into the environment can occur as a result of the manufacture, use and disposal of the chemical. Trichloroethylene may be emitted from industrial plants in the form of a vapour and aqueous effluent. Disposal of products containing trichloroethylene such as solvents and paints can result in its release in treatment works and waste landfills. Trace amounts of the chemical may also be found in waste oil and motor vehicle equipment. High contamination levels may be associated with accidental spillage.
Impacts on human health and environment
Trichloroethylene may cause cancer and genetic damage. Excessive exposure may affect the brain (central nervous system effects), heart, kidney, and liver, and cause skin and eye irritation. .
Acutely toxic levels to aquatic and terrestrial organisms are not expected to be reached under normal environmental conditions. Trichloroethylene does not build up significantly in plants and animals. It is likely that trichloroethylene has a wide distribution in the environment, but usually at low levels. It quickly evaporates from surface water to the air. It evaporates less easily from the soil, where it may stick to particles and remain for a long time. As a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) it 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.
Trichloroethylene is a priority substance (EC 1179/94. OJ L 131, 26.5.94, p.3.) under Regulation 793/93. The draft risk assessment report can be downloaded from http://ecb.jrc.it/existing-chemicals/. The report concludes that for the atmospheric compartment there are indications of effects of trichloroethylene on plant species exposed through the air.
Emission to air reporting threshold: 2000 kg/year
Data source: European Pollutant Emission Register