Can Exposure to Trichloroethylene Cause Cancer?

Trichloroethylene, more commonly known as TCE and used by commercial dry cleaners to remove spots from garments, can cause cancer in humans. The chemical is already classified as a Group 2A carcinogen by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer). Given that there are many routes of exposure to TCE, environmental concerns have been raised about whether or not the chemicals in dry cleaning can cause health issues. 

According to the latest news on Camp Lejeune lawsuit, Trichloroethylene or TCE was one of the primary chemicals involved in Camp Lejeune water contamination. And the result was cancer, mainly Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. In short, people who are exposed to Trichloroethylene would have a cancer risk of 5 times greater than people who do not come into contact with the chemical.

This blog post provides a comprehensive summary of potential effects.

Increased Risk of Kidney Cancer

Trichloroethylene, also called TCE, belongs to the family of chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents. They were used in dry cleaning, metal degreasing, and paint removers before they were phased out in the mid-1990s. Commercial cleaners currently use perchloroethylene as a replacement for TCE due to its non-toxicity and stability.

Because of the hazardous nature of TCE, this chemical is classified as a Group 2A carcinogen and it has been categorized as a cancer-causing agent by IARC (International Agency on Research on Cancer). The weight of evidence presented indicates that workers exposed to elevated concentrations of TCE have an increased risk of developing kidney tumors.

Increased Risk of Liver Cancer

There is only limited exposure data on liver cancer and TCE. Some studies have found that workers exposed to TCE have an elevated risk of developing liver cancer. A follow-up study showed increased risks for hepatocellular carcinoma tumors and other liver tumors among men exposed to TCE.

Increased Risk for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or NHL is the most common blood cancer. Workers in industrial settings who have been exposed to TCE have a higher risk of developing NHL. One study found that workers in the dry cleaning industry who had been exposed to TCE 1,000 ppm had nearly five times the risk of developing NHL.

Effects on Immune and Reproductive Systems, as well

TCE could alter the function of the immune system and lead to severe disorders in the reproductive organs. There are also studies showing that TCE exposure may be related to adverse neurodevelopmental and behavioral changes in children.


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