Section 1.3. What Are the Primary Routes of Exposure to Tetrachloroethylene?

Course: WB4066
CE Original Date: June 30, 2018
CE Expiration Date: June 30, 2020
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Learning Objectives

After completing this section, you will be able to describe how people are exposed to tetrachloroethylene.

Overview

The primary routes of exposure to tetrachloroethylene for the general population are inhalation, including vapor intrusion from contaminated soil and water, and swallowing contaminated water [ATSDR 2015; EPA 2013c; Guyton et al. 2014].

Occupational exposure to tetrachloroethylene primarily occurs through inhalation and skin contact with this compound at workplaces that produce or use tetrachloroethylene [ATSDR 2015; Gold LS et al. 2008].

Inhalation

Inhalation is a major route of exposure to tetrachloroethylene. Inhaling tetrachloroethylene can be intentional or accidental. Exposure can occur through breathing contaminated air

  • during work with tetrachloroethylene or
  • while near others who are working with tetrachloroethylene.

Tetrachloroethylene might 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 was 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
  • evaporation from a spill on a person’s skin or clothing.
Ingestion

Ingestion may occur through swallowing

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

Absorption through skin can also be a route of tetrachloroethylene exposure in the workplace and among the general public. However, absorption is not an important route of exposure for most people because only 1% is absorbed through contact with intact skin [Nakai et al. 1999; NTP 2014; Wester et al. 2002].

Key Points

The primary routes of exposure to tetrachloroethylene for the general population are inhalation, including vapor intrusion from contaminated soil and water, and swallowing contaminated water.

Page last reviewed: April 5, 2018