Families speak out on trichloroethylene exposure: It’s time for EPA to act on TCE

Families from across the country came to Washington, DC to tell lawmakers how the toxic chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) has impacted their lives.

TCE is a known human carcinogen that is toxic to the immune system and kidney, and can cause fetal heart damage – among other harmful health effects.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed bans on high-risk uses of TCE under the newly reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) back in December 2016 and January 2017, but under this Administration, the agency has abandoned these bans.

TCE is also one of the first 10 chemicals slated for a broad risk review by EPA under TSCA.  Unfortunately, EPA plans to ignore the major exposures Americans face from TCE and other toxic chemicals released to our air, water and land – yet another sign that EPA is giving in to the chemical industry to the detriment of the public’s health.

In a moving press conference today led by Sen. Tom Udall, several families shared their stories in an effort to pressure EPA to finalize the bans and take other necessary steps to protect communities across the country from TCE.

  • Kari Rhinehart spoke about her daughter, who passed away from a brain tumor four years ago, and noted the high rate of pediatric cancer in Johnson County, Indiana – where TCE has been detected in water, soil, and even in the air of homes in their community.
  • Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine Master Sergeant who was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, spoke about his daughter who died of leukemia following exposure to TCE and other toxic chemicals.
  • Linda and Oscar Robles discussed the lasting, harmful health effects of TCE contamination of the drinking water in their community of Tucson, Arizona.
  • Jan Peterson shared the story of her husband, who in his job regularly used a TCE solution to clean copiers and typewriters, and who passed away after battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Loreen Hackett from Hoosick Falls, New York, spoke about her experience living across the street from a former plant that is now designated a Superfund site because of TCE contamination.

These families’ experiences reveal the stark consequences of the decisions made every day in Washington, DC – and the deadly impacts of delaying critical action on toxic chemicals.

Also today, the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing featuring Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.  At the hearing, Sen. Cory Booker pressed Wheeler on EPA’s recent retreats from health-protective implementation of TSCA and its inaction on TCE.

Booker shared the stories of the families from Johnson County, Indiana – who were in the audience – and urged Wheeler both to finalize the proposed bans on TCE and to consider all sources of exposure to the chemical when assessing the risks of its other many uses.  Booker asked Wheeler, “would you commit to comprehensively reviewing the risks of chemicals by including known releases into our air, land, and water?”

Wheeler’s response?  “It is my understanding that we are looking at those pathways … I will need to double-check with our chemical office on that.”

Unfortunately, when Wheeler does his double-checking, he will learn that the Agency will ignore known exposures to TCE in our air, land, and water – an estimated 12 million pounds released annually – as well as such exposures to other toxic chemicals.  These are the very exposures that families across the country – like those who came to Washington, DC today – are directly facing.

EDF urges lawmakers and EPA to listen to the voices of these families.  EPA must get the proposed TCE bans over the finish line and comprehensively evaluate all other uses and exposures to the chemical – including exposures through air, water, and land.

You can raise your voice too! Email your elected officials today, and tell them Americans need to be protected from this dangerous chemical.

Samantha Lovell is a Project Specialist. Lindsay McCormick, is a Project Manager.

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