After slow-walking the process consistent with its decades long standard operating procedure, the U.S. EPA finally recognized what credible scientists have been saying for many years: exposure to TCE causes cancer. The earth is not flat after all. On September 28, EPA released the final health assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE) to the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database. IRIS is a human health assessment program that evaluates the latest science on chemicals in our environment. The final assessment characterizes the chemical as carcinogenic to humans and as a human non-cancer health hazard.
So, what does this mean for us? TCE is the single most common industrial chemical which is polluting groundwater in this country. Not only is it leaking from landfills all over the country, it is finding its way into our communities from reckless dumping practices at thousands of industrial sites from coast to coast. Because it is highly volatile, in addition to invading our ever diminishing water supplies, it seeps into our homes in vapor form and poisons the air we breathe 24-7. For those of us who have been fighting corporate polluters, this action means that we should no longer have to deal with one of the many baseless arguments we see in case after case – that TCE is harmless. And that’s a good thing. But, much more action on the part of those whose job it is to protect us must follow. Among other actions, EPA must act promptly to reduce the Maximum Contaminant Level for TCE, the amount of this poison which EPA allows to be present in our public water supplies. The MCL currently stands at 5 parts per billion for TCE, which is too high. Any amount is too high. EPA recognizes this and for years has had its goal for this chemical (MCLG) set at zero. While industry pressure is likely to prevent EPA from reducing the MCL to zero, where it should be, prompt reduction of the drinking water standard must go forward. So, we fight on. Click here to read EPA’s release.