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Tetrachloroethylene Toxicity
What Are the Routes of Exposure for Tetrachloroethylene?

Course: WB 1110
CE Original Date: May 23, 2008
CE Renewal Date: May 23, 2011
CE Expiration Date: May 23, 2013
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Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this section, you will be able to

  • identify the primary routes of exposure to tetrachloroethylene.


Occupational exposure to tetrachloroethylene occurs primarily through inhalation and dermal contact with this compound at workplaces where tetrachloroethylene is produced or used.
The general population may be exposed to tetrachloroethylene via inhalation of ambient air, ingestion of food and drinking water.


The air pathway is a major route of exposure to tetrachloroethylene. Exposure scenarios include inhalation of contaminated air

  • during work with tetrachloroethylene or
  • while in the same space as others working with tetrachloroethylene.

Tetrachloroethylene may also be inhaled from

  • accidental spills or product use in small, enclosed spaces,
  • clothing or newly dry-cleaned fabrics in homes,
  • landfills in which it may have been disposed,
  • releases to air and water by evaporation or emissions from industrial and dry-cleaning plants,
  • vapors formed from contaminated water used for bathing and laundering,
  • vapors rising from contaminated groundwater seeping into a basement or crawl space, and
  • worker's skin.


Ingestion—another major pathway of exposure—may be intentional or accidental. It occurs through swallowing

  • food or drinking water contaminated with tetrachloroethylene or
  • breast milk contaminated with tetrachloroethylene.


Dermal contact also may be a route of tetrachloroethylene exposure in the workplace and among the general public. However, the chemical is less easily absorbed through the skin than through inhalation and oral exposure routes.

Key Points

  • The major routes of human exposure to tetrachloroethylene are by inhalation and ingestion.

Progress Check

3. Occupational exposure to tetrachloroethylene occurs generally by

A. ingestion
B. inhalation
C. dermal contact
D. all are equally important.


To review relevant content, see Inhalation in this section.

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