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Tetrachloroethane

TCE, Acetylene tetrachloride, Dichloro-2,2-dichloroethane

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
10.0 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
Disclaimer
This sheet is a generic summary, designed to give the reader a basic level of background information about the substance in question. Great care has been taken to represent as effectively and correctly as possible the broad range of (not necessarily consistent) information which is available from a variety of sources. The reader must accept therefore that this sheet has no legal status and cannot be relied upon in any legal proceedings. SEPA disclaims any responsibility or liability whatsoever for errors and omissions in this sheet.
What is it?
1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane (TCE) is a man-made chemical which is part of a family of of organic (carbon-containing) halogen compounds. It is usually found as a sweet-smelling liquid, but easily evaporates to a gas. TCE is one of a group of chemicals known as the volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
What is it used for?
The main use of TCE today is in the production of other chemicals (such as trichloroethylene), although its use is gradually being phased out as it is replaced by safer alternatives. In the past it was used for a variety of purposes: as an insecticide, fumigant and weedkiller, as a solvent for cleaning and degreasing metals, in paint and rust removers, as an extractant for oils and fats and in photographic film. Most of these uses are now banned in the EC.
Where does it come from?
Releases of TCE to the environment usually occur during its manufacture and use. These are mainly to the atmosphere because of it evaporates so easily, but releases can also contaminate water bodies and soils. There are no natural sources of TCE to the environment.
How might it affect the environment?
Most TCE released to the environment ends up in the atmosphere or surface waters, where its breakdown is relatively slow. TCE is toxic to aquatic organisms, but it has not been observed to build up in fish or other organisms. As a VOC, TCE can be involved in the formation of ground level ozone which can cause damage to crops and materials. The impacts of TCE are on a local scale. It is not considered likely to have a significant impact on the global environment.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Tetrachloroethane can enter the body either by inhalation of air containing tetrachloroethane, ingestion of contaminated water or by dermal contact with tetrachloroethane. Dermal contact with high levels of tetrachloroethane occurs mainly in the occupational setting. Inhalation of high levels of tetrachloroethane can cause a number of adverse health effects including respiratory tract irritation, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, headache, speaking and walking problems, liver and kidney damage and unconsciousness. Ingestion of high levels of tetrachloroethane may cause digestive tract irritation, stomachaches, dizziness and liver and kidney damage. Dermal contact with tetrachloroethane can cause skin irritation. Exposure to high levels may cause effects similar to those for ingestion. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has designated tetrachloroethane as being not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans. However, exposure to tetrachloroethane at normal background levels is unlikely to have any adverse effect on human health.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
TCE is regulated through the Food and Environmental Protection Act (FEPA 1985) and the Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR 1986). It is not listed for authorised use as a pesticide in the UK (including Scotland) in the Pesticide Safety Directorate. As a VOC, levels of TCE in air are controlled through the UK National Air Quality Strategy. Releases to water are controlled through the UK Surface Waters Regulations (SI 1997/2560). European Directives covering the release of TCE include that on pollution caused by potentially dangerous discharges into the aquatic environment (76/464/EEC). As a VOC, its release is controlled at an international level through the Basel Convention concerning the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes and through the UN/ECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. It is also listed as a candidate for prioritisation under the OSPAR and Helsinki Conventions which are concerned with the protection of the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic and the Baltic sea respectively.