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Assessing and Managing Chemicals under TSCA

Final Risk Evaluation for Perchloroethylene

As part of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment, the agency has completed a final risk evaluation for perchloroethylene under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In the final risk evaluation, EPA reviewed 61 conditions of use, such as various industrial and commercial uses including a solvent for cleaning and degreasing, and in lubricants, adhesives, and sealants. Perchloroethylene has a limited number of consumer uses in products like adhesives for arts and crafts and stainless steel polish.

The perchloroethylene risk evaluation contains the agency’s final determinations on which conditions of use present unreasonable risks to human health or the environment based on a robust review of the scientific data. To prepare the final risk evaluation, EPA reviewed extensive scientific literature, conducted modeling and other risk assessment activities, and collected toxicity, exposure, and hazard information from many sources.  EPA used feedback received from the public and the scientific peer review process carried out by the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals to inform the final risk evaluation.

Releasing a final risk evaluation is the last step in the scientific evaluation process required by TSCA and will guide the agency’s efforts to issue regulations to address unreasonable risks associated with this chemical. EPA has one year to propose and take public comments on any risk management actions.

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Risk Evaluation Findings

In the December 2020 final risk evaluation, EPA reviewed the exposures and hazards of perchloroethylene uses and made the following final risk findings on this chemical. This final risk evaluation includes input from the public and peer reviewers as required by TSCA and associated regulations. In making these unreasonable risk determinations EPA considered the hazards and exposure, magnitude of risk, exposed population, severity of the hazard, uncertainties, and other factors.

EPA found unreasonable risk to workers, occupational non-users, consumers and bystanders from 59 conditions of use. 

  • Consumers and Bystanders: EPA found unreasonable risks to consumers and bystanders from all consumers uses of perchloroethylene. Common consumer uses include as a dry cleaning solvent, in cleaning and furniture care produces, automotive care products like brake cleaners, lubricants/greases, and adhesives in arts and crafts. The risk to consumers from this chemical’s use in dry cleaning is from short-term skin exposure to items cleaned with perchloroethylene.
  • Workers and Occupational Non-Users: EPA found unreasonable risks to workers from all but two occupational uses of perchloroethylene. Additionally, EPA found unreasonable risks from most commercial uses of this chemical to workers nearby but not in direct contact with this chemical (known as occupational non-users). This includes an unreasonable risk to workers and occupational non-users when domestic manufacturing or importing the chemical; processing as a reactant and intermediate; incorporation into cleaning and degreasing products; uses in a variety of industrial and commercial applications such as degreasing, dry cleaning, in adhesives and sealants, and in paints and coatings; and disposal. The primary health risk identified in the final risk evaluation is neurological effects from short- and long-term exposure to the chemical. The conditions of use in the final risk evaluation that EPA determined do not present an unreasonable risk are distribution in commerce and industrial and commercial use in lubricants and greases for penetrating lubricants and cutting tool coolants.

EPA found no unreasonable risk to the environment for any conditions of use. EPA has determined that this chemical does not present an unreasonable risk of injury to the environment (aquatic organisms) from all conditions of use, based on the risk estimates, the environmental effects, the exposures, physical-chemical properties, and consideration of uncertainties.

Using Products Safely and Alternatives

While EPA is working through the process required by TSCA to address the unreasonable risks found from perchloroethylene, the information below provides ways to reduce exposure.

For any chemical product, EPA strongly recommends that users carefully follow all instructions on the product’s label and on the safety data sheets. Workers using perchloroethylene products should continue to follow the label/safety data sheets and applicable workplace regulations and should properly use appropriate personal protective equipment, as needed. Additionally, safety data sheets developed by the manufacturer provide instructions on the proper use of this chemical including using the product in well-ventilated areas.

Consumers wishing to avoid exposure should ask retailers if products used contain perchloroethylene and consider not using products that do contain this chemical. Consumers also can choose to not use products where they do not know the active ingredients.

EPA understands that the risks to consumers from dry cleaning found in the final risk evaluation may be concerning. It is important to note that use of perchloroethylene in dry cleaning is decreasing as companies shift to alternative chemicals and new technologies. The risk to consumers from this chemical’s use in dry cleaning is from short-term skin exposure to items cleaned with perchloroethylene. The amount of exposure to this chemical through dry cleaning depends on several factors, including fabric type, number and proximity of dry cleaning events, total number of dry-cleaned articles, total article surface area, the type of dry cleaning machine used, and number of days elapsed since the fabric was dry cleaned. Consumer exposure could be limited by limited wearing of articles that have been very recently dry cleaned. Additionally, to the extent that consumers want to avoid exposure to this chemical through dry cleaning, they can ask which chemicals are used to clean their clothes and make the choice that’s right for them.

Next Steps and Public Participation

The next step in the process required by TSCA is risk management. EPA will propose and take public comments on actions to address the unreasonable risks identified in the risk evaluation. According to TSCA, the agency must finalize those actions within two years of completing the final risk evaluation. EPA’s proposed regulations could include requirements on how the chemical is used, or limiting or prohibiting the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, use, or disposal of this chemical substance, as applicable.

EPA is committed to being open and transparent as the agency follows the process required by the law for evaluating unreasonable risks from chemicals. EPA will continue to keep the public updated as the agency moves through the risk management process. Following the comprehensive risk evaluation process required by TSCA ensures that the public has confidence in EPA’s final conclusions about whether a chemical substance poses any unreasonable risks to health or the environment under the conditions of use. This then allows the public to have confidence in the risk management actions taken to ensure the safety of chemicals on the market.

There will be additional opportunities for public participation. Just like the risk evaluation process, there will be opportunities for public comment as EPA works to propose and finalize risk management actions for perchloroethylene. You can stay informed by signing up for our email alerts or checking the public docket at EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0502 at 

Final Risk Evaluation and Supporting Documents

The final risk evaluation for perchloroethylene, non-technical summary, response to comments, and other supporting documents are below.

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