Section 3.3. Regulations and Guidelines

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

  • identify existing standards and guidelines for tetrachloroethylene in the environment and
  • identify existing standards and guidelines for tetrachloroethylene in the workplace.
Overview

The federal government has developed regulations and guidelines for tetrachloroethylene to protect the public and workers from potential adverse health effects from exposure. Federal regulations that eliminate the use of tetrachloroethylene in dry cleaning in urban locations will go into effect in December 2020 [CMR 2008].

U.S. Federal Regulations and Guidelines
Air

EPA has designated tetrachloroethylene as a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act [EPA 2013b].

Water

The current EPA drinking water regulation for tetrachloroethylene is 5 ppb ( = 5 µg/L) [EPA 2013a].

Food

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [FDA 2017] monitors bottled water and has established an acceptable level of 5 µg/L for bottled water.

Table 1. Standards and Regulations for Tetrachloroethylene.
Agency Focus Level* Comments
American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Air: workplace 25 ppm Advisory; TLV/TWA STEL of 100 ppm
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Air: workplace Not available Advisory; lowest feasible level because of carcinogenicity
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Air: workplace 100 ppm Regulation; PEL§ over an 8-hour workday
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air: environment None Listed as a hazardous air pollutant under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Water: environment 5 ppb Regulation; maximum level allowed in drinking water
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food: bottled drinking water 5 µg/L Regulation

*ppm: parts per million; ppb: parts per billion.
TLV/TWA (threshold limit value/time-weighted average): time-weighted average concentration of exposure for nearly all work during a normal 8-hour workday or 40-hour workweek.
STEL (short-term exposure limit): usually a 15-minute sampling period.
§PEL (permissible exposure limit): highest level of exposure, averaged over a normal workday.

Environmental and Workplace Air Standards
Environmental

EPA regulates three types of tetrachloroethylene dry cleaners under the Clean Air Act

  1. Large industrial and commercial dry cleaners
  2. Freestanding small dry cleaners
  3. Small dry cleaners in apartment buildings

EPA has required operators to reduce emissions from dry cleaners and has established a final rule on the phase out of tetrachloroethylene use in dry cleaners in residential areas by December 21, 2020. Currently, approximately 28,000 U.S. dry cleaners use tetrachloroethylene [ATSDR 2015].

Occupational

OSHA has established a permissible exposure limit (PEL) in workplace air of 100 ppm measured as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) [OSHA 2013] (Table 1).

NIOSH recommends treating tetrachloroethylene in the workplace as a potential human carcinogen and reducing occupational exposure to the lowest feasible level [NIOSH 2013].

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists [ACGIH 2016] recommends a threshold limit value (TLV) of 25 ppm for an 8-hour TWA and a short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 100 ppm.

Key Point
  • EPA has designated tetrachloroethylene as a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
  • The current EPA and FDA tap and bottled water regulation for tetrachloroethylene is 5 μg/L. Federal regulations have gradually reduced the use of tetrachloroethylene and will eliminate the use of tetrachloroethylene in dry cleaning in urban locations in December 2020.
  • NIOSH recommends treating tetrachloroethylene in the workplace as a potential human carcinogen and reducing occupational exposure to the lowest feasible level.
Page last reviewed: April 5, 2018