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Slashdot: Biden Administration Moves To Outlaw Trichloroethylene, a Solvent Linked To Cancer


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    An anonymous reader quotes a report from the New York Times: The Biden administration has proposed to ban all uses of trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent used in glues, other adhesives, spot removers and metal cleaners, saying exposure to even small amounts can cause cancer, damage to the central nervous system and other health effects. The proposed ban is the latest twist in a yearslong debate over whether to regulate trichloroethylene, commonly referred to as TCE. In its final weeks, the Obama administration tried to ban some uses of the chemical, only to have the Trump administration place it on an Environmental Protection Agency list for long-term consideration, a move that essentially suspended any action. Monday's proposal goes further than the Obama-era plan by prohibiting all uses of TCE.

    Under the E.P.A. proposal, most uses of TCE, including those in processing commercial and consumer products, would be prohibited within one year. For other uses the agency categorized as "limited," such as use in electric vehicle batteries and the manufacturing of certain refrigerants, there would be a longer transition period and more stringent worker protections. The administration said that safer alternatives exist for most uses of TCE as a solvent. In a final evaluation this year, the E.P.A. said the chemical posed an "unreasonable risk to human health." Short-term exposure could affect a developing fetus, and high concentrations can irritate the respiratory system, the agency said. Prolonged exposure has been associated with effects in the liver, kidneys, immune system and central nervous system, it said.

    "This is extremely important," said Maria Doa, senior director for chemicals policy at the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit advocacy organization. She said TCE "causes so many different harms at such low levels" that banning it would have widespread impacts. "It's a long time coming," she said.

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