For the first time in more than two decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week moved to outlaw specific uses of a dangerous chemical: Trichlorethylene, or TCE. The ban will protect us from a substance tied to cancer, Parkinson’s and a host of other serious health issues.
The little-noticed announcement was the first such action the EPA took since Congress passed bi-partisan chemical safety legislation that President Obama signed into law in June.
TCE is not a household name, but your dry cleaner may use it to get grease stains out of your shirt or pants. It’s also used by consumers who clean auto parts, bikes, guns and other items requiring them to get tough on grease.
Products containing this hazardous chemical are available at your local mega-store or online shopping sites. Somewhat incredibly, at least one brand advertises its version as “low toxicity.”
Concerns about TCE have been known for a long time, and most uses have been banned in Europe.
Yet, the EPA was long hobbled by America’s badly broken chemical safety law until it was reformed this summer. The new law allows the agency to finally move ahead and restrict toxic chemicals such as TCE.
Too many dangerous chemicals remain in use, however, which is why it’s critical the EPA keeps up the pace. My colleague and our chemical expert Jennifer McPartland explains what’s at stake on our EDF Health blog.