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EPA said to put brakes on banning
TCE
The Environmental Protection Agency is postponing indefinitely a proposed ban on the use of
trichloroethylene (TCE) as a drycleaning spotting chemical, according to a report in The New York
Times.
The report comes a year after EPA announced that TCE was among chemicals on fast-track to
be banned, possibly as early as the end of 2017.
EPA now has placed a ban of TCE on a list of “long-term actions’’ without a set deadline.
TCE and perchloroethylene were both on a list of 10 chemicals that EPA said it would be
reviewing under the revised Toxic Substance Control Act passed by Congress in 2016. That
legislation required EPA to publish a list of chemicals to evaluate for potential risks to human
health and the environment.
Publication of the list triggered a statutory deadline for EPA to complete risk evaluations for
these chemicals within three years. If an evaluation determined that a chemical presents an
unreasonable risk to humans and the environment, EPA would need to mitigate that risk within
two years.
So far EPA has published only a “scoping document” for perc and action on that chemical could
take a few years. But soon after publishing the list, EPA announced that it was proceeding with a
ban on TCE when used as a degreaser and a spot removal agent in drycleaning.
Specifically, EPA said it wanted to prohibit the manufacturing, importing, processing and
distribution of TCE for use in aerosol degreasing and spot cleaning in drycleaning.
The agency said it had identified serious risks to workers and consumers associated with TCE
uses in a 2014 assessment that concluded that the chemical can cause a range of adverse health
effects, including cancer, development and neurotoxicological effects, and toxicity to the liver.
According to the EPA, the majority of TCE is used as an intermediate for manufacturing
refrigerants. Much of the remainder — about 15 percent — is used as a solvent for metals
degreasing. Other uses include as a spotting agent in drycleaning and in consumer products.
The proposal drew criticism from the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, the National Cleaners
Association and the Halogranted Solvents Inustry Alliance.
In comments to EPA on the proposed ban, the HSIA said it “is based on a very deficient risk
assessment completed before TSCA was revised.”
“The better course would be to assess the risks from spot cleaning and aerosol degreasing as
part of the required upcoming TCE assessment,” HSIA said.
HSIA said that EPA had given no notice that its 2014 assessment would address TCE’s use as
spot cleaner in drycleaning, thus there was no participation by drycleaner representatives and no
peer review of the spot cleaning assessment. Nor was there a Small Business Advocacy Review,
even though spot cleaning is done by drycleaners who are virtually all small businesses.
HSIA also questioned EPA’s claim that the rule would have no significant economic impact on
drycleaners. In proposing the ban, EPA said drycleaners have available a number substitutes that
are comparably priced.
In comments to EPA, DLI’s Jon Meijer said that while alternatives are available, they aren’t
necessarily equally effective.
“Alternatives to TCE require more time on the spotting board in an attempt to remove the
same stain from the garment,” Meijer said.
Alan Spielvogel of NCA said the ban could negatively effect a drycleaner’s bottom line.
Alternatives to TCE are not as effective, present risks to the garment that do not exist with TCE
and are more time consuming to use in order to achieve similar results, he said.
“Our position is that between labor and utilities, an increased cost as a percentage of gross
sales of between four and five percent of gross sales can be expected if TCE’s use is prohibited as
a spot cleaner in the industry,” Spielvogel said.
Last summer, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee urged EPA to back off its proposed
TCE ban.
“Rather than continuing with those rulemakings, the committee encourages EPA to consider
those chemical uses as part of the risk evaluation process for the ten priority compounds recently
designated by EPA under TSCA section, which include the chemicals in question,” the committee
report stated.