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US EPA Proposes Strict Regulations on Perchloroethylene (PCE) for Health Protection

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The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rule aimed at addressing the significant risk to human health posed by perchloroethylene (PCE), a widely used solvent in various industrial and consumer applications. The proposal comes as a response to the EPA's December 2020 Risk Evaluation for PCE and the revised risk determination for PCE in December 2022, both conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

PCE has been found to present an unreasonable risk of injury to health due to its association with adverse health effects, including neurotoxicity from acute and chronic inhalation exposures, dermal exposures, and the potential for cancer from chronic inhalation. The EPA's proposal aims to eliminate or reduce these risks to an acceptable level.

To achieve this, the EPA's proposed rule seeks to implement several restrictions and requirements. Most significantly, it proposes prohibiting most industrial and commercial uses of PCE, as well as the manufacture, processing, distribution, and use of PCE for all consumer applications. Furthermore, the proposal includes a 10-year phaseout plan for PCE's use in dry cleaning and related spot cleaning.

For conditions of use not subject to prohibition, the EPA intends to impose a PCE workplace chemical protection program. This program would involve meeting inhalation exposure concentration limits, preventing direct dermal contact, and implementing prescriptive workplace controls for laboratory use. The proposal also establishes recordkeeping and downstream notification requirements to ensure compliance.

However, the EPA recognizes that certain critical or essential emergency uses of PCE may still be necessary, where no technically and economically feasible alternative is available. To address this, the proposal includes time-limited exemptions from the requirements for such cases.

The EPA's proposed rule aims to fulfill the requirements of the TSCA, which mandates addressing any identified unreasonable risks to health or the environment and applying necessary measures to mitigate these risks. By implementing these regulations, the EPA seeks to safeguard human health from the adverse effects associated with PCE exposure.

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