Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a non-flammable liquid clorinated hydrocarbon used as an industrial solvent for its degreasing properties. It is also commonly used in the dry cleaning of fabrics. In the past it was topically used on humans as a disinfectant and anesthetic and incorporated into coffee as a spice. The FDA banned these uses in 1977 after the toxicity to humans and wildlife of TCE was determined. Trichloroethylene continued to be used widely as a solvent and it is found in indoor and outdoor air and drinking and surface water.
In May of 2013, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study showing possible links between Trichloroethylene and liver cancer and called for more research. Previous studies have shown a link between TCE and cancers of the kidney, cervix, liver and biliary passages as well as other types of cancer including non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Unfortunately, buried waste from industrial uses has leaked into the ground water, placing the general population at risk for higher exposure to TCE. TCE is commonly found at Superfund sites around the country.
These kinds of complications from chemical solvent use underline the need for more environmentally friendly cleaning processes, either using safer chemicals or other cleaning methods such as aqueous cleaning technology. Water-based or more environmentally friendly solvents reduce the risks of employee and environmental exposure to toxins without compromising the benefits of solvents such as TCE. Many companies have found that replacing TCE with aqueous parts cleaning technology can be safer and less expensive.
AEC Systems is committed to providing companies with environmentally safe parts cleaning technology and working towards ever more stringent goals of zero waste production. Clean should also mean safe, for parts and for people.
By: Ryan Westphal