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Trichloroethylene

General Description

  • Synonyms: Ethylene trichloride; TCE; Trichloroethene; Triclene
  • OSHA IMIS Code Number: 2490
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 79-01-6
  • NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number: KX4550000
  • Department of Transportation Regulation Number (49 CFR 172.101) and Emergency Response Guidebook: 1710 160
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Trichloroethylene: chemical description, physical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more

Exposure Limits

  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL):
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV) (2006): 10 ppm (54 mg/m3) TWA; 25 ppm (135 mg/m3) STEL; A2; BEI
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL): Appendix A - NIOSH Potential Occupational Carcinogens; Appendix C - supplementary Exposure Limits - 2 ppm 1-hour Ceiling as an anesthetic agent and 25 ppm 10-hour TWA all other exposures

Health Factors

  • Carcinogenic Classification:
  • NIOSH Immediately Dangerous To Life or Health Concentration (IDLH): 1,000 ppm
  • Potential Symptoms: Irritation of eyes, skin; headache; visual disturbance; lassitude (weakness, exhaustion), dizziness; tremor; drowsiness, nausea; vomiting; dermatitis; cardiac arrhythmias; paresthesia; liver injury; potential male reproductive toxin; [potential occupational carcinogen]
  • Health Effects: Narcosis (HE8); Cumulative systemic toxicity (HE3) Mutagen/Suspect carcinogen (HE2); Suspect teratogen (HE5)
  • Affected Organs: Kidneys, liver, eyes, skin, CNS, cardiovascular system
  • Notes:
    1. Trichloroethylene (TCE) was formerly used as an inhalational anesthetic for surgery.
    2. TCE is metabolized mainly by cytochrome P-450 2E1 to TCE oxide (which forms adducts with lysine residues in proteins) and chloral (active as a sedative-hypnotic drug), both of which are further metabolized. This CYP2E1 is inducible, as well as inhibited, by ethanol.
    3. Chloral may also be transformed in the body into a dopaminergic neurotoxin.
    4. In addition to dermatitis from a skin defatting action, a severe generalized dermatitis with hepatitis can occur after TCE exposure.
    5. One case of parkinsonism after occupational exposure to TCE was reported.
    6. Toxicity to epididymal epithelium found in mice that inhaled TCE may be due to toxic metabolites formed via CYP2E1, an enzyme that also occurs in human epididymal epithelium and testicular Leydig cells.
    7. The amounts of TCE residue allowable in decaffeinated coffee and spice oleoresins are regulated by the FDA (21 CFR 173.290).
  • Literature Basis:
    • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards: Trichloroethylene.
    • International Chemical Safety Cards (WHO/IPCS/ILO): Trichloroethylene.
    • EPA Air Toxics Website: Trichloroethylene. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Technology Transfer Network.
    • Bringmann, G, God, R., Fahr, S., Feineis, D., Fornadi, K. and Fornadi, F.: Identification of the dopaminergic neurotoxin 1-trichloromethyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-beta-carboline in human blood after intake of the hypnotic chloral hydrate. Anal. Biochem. 270(1): 167-175, 1999.
    • Cai, H. and Guengerich, F.P.: Reaction of trichloroethylene and trichloroethylene oxide with cytochrome P450 enzymes: inactivation and sites of modification. Chem. Res. Toxicol. 14(4): 451-458, 2001.
    • Forkert, P.-G., Lash, L., Tardif, R., Tanphaichitr, N., Vandevoort, C. and Moussa, M.: Identification of trichloroethylene and its metabolites in human seminal fluid of workers exposed to trichloroethylene. Drug Metab. Dispos. 31(3): 306-311, 2003.
    • Guehl, D., Bezard, E., Dovero, S., Boraud, T., Bioulac, B. and Gross, C.: Trichloroethylene and parkinsonism: a human and experimental observation. Eur. J. Neurol. 6(5): 609-611, 1999.
    • Lipscomb, J.C., Garrett, C.M. and Snawder, J.E.: Cytochrome P450-dependent metabolism of trichloroethylene: interindividual differences in humans. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 142(2): 311-318, 1997.
    • Nakajima, T., Yamanoshita, O., Kamijima, M., Kishi, R. and Ichihara, G.: Generalized skin reactions in relation to trichloroethylene exposure: a review from the viewpoint of drug-metabolizing enzymes. J. Occup. Health 45(1): 8-14, 2003.
    • Pohanish, R.P. (editor): Trichloroethylene. In, Sittig's Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens, Fourth Ed., Vol. 2. Norwich, NY: Noyes Publications, William Andrew Publishing, 2002, pp.2250-2253.
  • Date Last Revised: 07/07/2004

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Primary Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method (SLC1):
  • Charcoal Tube (100/50 mg sections, 20/40 mesh)
  • analytical solvent: Carbon Disulfide
  • maximum volume: 12 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 0.05 L/min
  • minimum time: >5 Minutes
  • maximum flow rate: 0.05 L/min (Ceiling)
  • minimum time: >1 Minute
  • maximum flow rate: 0.05 L/min (Peak)
  • current analytical method: Gas Chromatography; GC/FID
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 1001)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
  • Diffusive Sampler (SKC 575-002 Passive Sampler)
  • analytical solvent: Carbon Disulfide
  • sampling time: < or 240 Minutes (TWA); > 5 Minutes (Ceiling); > 5 Minutes (Peak)
  • current analytical method: Gas Chromatography; GC/FID
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 1001)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
  • note: Persons using diffusive samplers to monitor workplace air must ensure that the sampling devices are properly closed before transporting such devices to the laboratory for analysis. The device will continue to sample until properly closed. Diffusive sampler accessories used for analysis of samplers must be included with transported samples. Persons using such devices must provide sampling-site station barometric pressure and temperature to the analytical laboratory to improve accuracy of sampling results.

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