Trichloroethylene (TCE)


Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is a priority chemical identified under TSCA. It is a toxic organic compound typically only used by industry as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, as a spot cleaner or to make hydrofluorocarbon chemicals. It is carcinogenic to humans by all routes, and EPA estimates nearly 250 million pounds are used in the U.S. annually. TCE has gone through a Risk Evaluation process under TSCA and in November of 2020, EPA published their Final TCE Risk Evaluation. The final risk evaluation examined 54 conditions of use and found the majority created an "unreasonable risk" to users. As a result, new restrictions and regulations will follow.

In Kansas, aerospace manufacturers and their job shops are the primary users of TCE. Under an EPA grant, the Pollution Prevention Institute (PPI) worked with its TCE users to host stakeholder meetings or roundtables in 2017,  2018, 2019 and 2021. Read more about these roundtables and view past content below. 

Kansas TCE Roundtable


Four different TCE Roundtables were held in Wichita, Kansas, targeting aerospace original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their job shops that use TCE. The 2017 and 2018 events were limited to stakeholders who had TRI reportable quantities of TCE use. This allowed PPI to host a smaller meeting of stakeholders with similar quantities and process use. Despite the stakeholders being competitors, 100% of the industries invited participated in both the 2017 and 2018 TCE Roundtables.

The 2019 event included any Kansas aerospace industries that used TCE. The event was recorded and included expert regulatory and research guest speakers from EPA Headquarters, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and a featured speaker from SAFECHEM. Resources from all three events are posted below. 

The next and final TCE roundtable is Jan. 26, 2021 and EPA will present their Final TCE Risk Evaluation. The risk evaluation examined 54 conditions of use and found the majority created an "unreasonable risk" to users. As a result, new restrictions and regulations will follow. This roundtable will be held virtual and pre-registration is required. Register for the Jan. 26, 2021 event here.

Web Links

TCE Equipment, Process and Material P2 Modifications

Equipment Modifications

  • Install impervious covers on cleaning tanks to prevent vapor loss.
  • Install a vapor-level control device for automatic sump shut-off.
  • Use super-heated vapor degreasers to facilitate drying and minimize solvent drag-out.
  • Install a solvent recovery system.
  • Use dry pumps on vacuum equipment to eliminate use of oil.
  • Use in-line solvent recovery on vapor degreasing.

Process Modifications

  • Use counter-current cleaning methods where possible.
  • Preclean parts by wiping instead of rinsing.
  • Centralize and consolidate cold cleaning operations to minimize vapor losses.
  • Increase drain times for parts before and after washing to reduce dragout.
  • Extend solvent life by avoiding unnecessary solvent additions.
  • Extend life of cleaners through filtration.
  • Implement and practice preventive maintenance.

Material Modifications

  • Research less-toxic alternatives for cleaners, solvents, etc.
  • Use material exchanges to find companies that may use relatively clean streams as a feedstock.

Looking for a safer alternative to TCE and not sure where to start? The EPA Safer Choice program compiles lists of products and individual chemicals considered safe based on available environmental and toxological data. Safer Choice Products and the Safer Chemical Ingredients List are great starting points for researching safer, more environmentally friendly alternatives.