WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Feb. 10 officially characterized tetrachloroethylene—also known as perchloroethylene (perc)—as a “likely human carcinogen,” but the agency does not believe that wearing clothing dry-cleaned with perc poses a health risk.
EPA issued its final health assessment to its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database, which describes health effects that may result from exposure to various substances. The assessment provides estimates for both cancer and non-cancer effects associated with exposure to perc over a lifetime.
The agency has already taken several significant actions to reduce exposure to perc. It has clean air standards for dry cleaners that use perc, including requirements that will phase-out the chemical’s use in residential buildings by Dec. 21, 2020.
EPA also set limits for the amount of perc allowed in drinking water, and levels for cleaning up perc at Superfund sites throughout the country, which will be updated in light of the IRIS assessment.
“The perc health assessment released today will provide valuable information to help protect people and communities from exposure to perc in soil, water and air,” says Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This assessment emphasizes the value of the IRIS database in providing strong science to support government officials as they make decisions to protect the health of the American people.”
The assessment replaces the 1988 IRIS assessment for perc and for the first time includes a hazard characterization for cancer effects. The new assessment has undergone several levels of rigorous, independent peer review, the EPA says, including: agency review, interagency review, public comment, and external peer review by the National Research Council.
EPA’s updated perc IRIS assessment can be found here.
Additional information about perc is available here.