The properties and uses of tetrachloroethylene (127184) (TCE) are reviewed. The chemical, also known as perchloroethylene, is used mainly in the dry cleaning field, where an estimated 69,000 to 92,000 persons are involved in the nonindustrial, non coin operated aspects of dry cleaning. Effects of occupational exposure are irritation to eyes, nose, and throat, and central nervous system depression. The chemical is produced by chlorination of 1,2- dichloroethane (107062) or other types of hydrocarbons. Dry cleaners are the greatest users; 63 percent of TCE is used in that field. Metal cleaning uses account for 14 percent, use as a chemical intermediate accounts for 13 percent, and export and other uses account for 10 percent of TCE use. Studies of human exposures show symptoms including increased salivation, eye irritation, frontal sinus tightness, hand perspiration, nasal secretion, nausea, increased appetite, and elation. Exposure to 1,000 parts per million (ppm) for 95 minutes causes lassitude, mental confusion, exhilaration, peripheral anesthesia, and increased sweating. Increased concentrations produce inebriation, loss of inhibition, faintness, vertigo, and hypotension. Exposed workers develop liver damage and cirrhosis. Routes of absorption are by lungs and skin. Experiments are cited in which rats exposed to 19,000ppm died within 30 minutes and monkeys exposed to 400ppm for 7 hours per day, 5 days per week for 250 days show no adverse effects. Rabbits exposed to 2,500ppm for 7 hours per day, 5 days per week for 28 days show marked depression of the central nervous system. Reproductive studies in mice and rats show elevated maternal liver weights and low fetal body weights. No mutagenicity in Escherichia-coli or carcinogenicity in rats has been reported.
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, NIOSH, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare