Trichloroethylene

Trichloroethylene Facts

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a clear colourless liquid used mainly for degreasing metal parts in the automotive and metal industries. It can also be found in some household products, such as glues, adhesives, paint removers, spot removers, rug cleaning fluids, paints, metal cleaners and typewriter correction fluid. 

How does TCE get into the environment? 
The largest source of TCE in the environment is through air emissions from factories that use it to remove grease from metals. TCE can also enter air and groundwater if it is improperly disposed of or leaks into the ground. It evaporates easily but can stay in the soil and in groundwater for an extended period of time. 
What are the health risks associated with TCE exposure? 

A person’s health risk depends on:

  • How much TCE an individual was exposed to (the dose)
  • How long the exposure lasted (the duration)
  • How the person was exposed (breathing, drinking, eating or skin contact)
  • Other factors associated with the individual (such as age, health, lifestyle choices, family traits, and other chemicals the person is exposed to)

Acute effects occur after short-term exposure (e.g. minutes, a few days) to very high concentrations of TCE. Symptoms of acute exposure include drowsiness, decreased memory and perception, visual effects and anesthesia. Indoor air concentrations of TCE in the Bishop Street Community are much lower than those that result in acute effects.

Chronic effects are those that occur after long-term exposure (e.g. years). The main concern with TCE exposure is the risk of cancer. Cancers that have been associated with TCE include kidney, liver and lymphoid tissue cancers. See the TCE fact sheet for details about health risks of TCE. 

Bishop Street Community, Cambridge, Ontario 

Some homes in the Bishop Street Community in Cambridge, Ontario have TCE in the indoor air due to the presence of TCE in the groundwater underneath the homes. TCE evaporates from the groundwater, enters soil vapour (air spaces between soil particles), and moves through building foundations into the building's indoor air.

What is the level of risk in the Bishop Street Community?
The levels of TCE in the Bishop Street Community are not expected to result in acute health effects. While health risks associated with long-term TCE exposure are possible, the risk is very low given the low concentrations of indoor TCE in the Bishop Street Community. See the TCE fact sheet for more information about TCE levels and their risk to health.
Bishop Street Community Newsletters

The Bishop Street Community Newsletter was developed to share updates about TCE remediation and mitigation measures in the Bishop Street Community. The newsletter is shared by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, GE Canada, the Community Information Centre, and Region of Waterloo Public Health.

Public Meetings 

May 2017

The purpose of the meeting was to provide an update to residents on the progress of the TCE groundwater remediation and indoor air mitigation activities. 

Public Health provided an update on indoor air treatment.

November 2010

After the meeting in June 2010, Public Health Ontario (formerly known as the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion) an expert provincial agency, was invited to review all available information on the TCE contamination and to hear residents' concerns directly.

Dr. Ray Copes, Director for Environmental and Occupational Health at Public Health Ontario, presented his findings at the November 2010 meeting.

A third party reviewer, Dr. John Eyles, a professor from the School of Geography and Health Sciences at McMaster University, provided additional commentary at that meeting. Region of Waterloo's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Liana Nolan, and Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang were also in attendance to hear residents' concerns.

Public Health Ontario's report and presentation are available below:

Contact publichealth@regionofwaterloo.ca to request a copy of the audio transcripts from the Bishop Street public meetings held in 2010. 

Additional Resources:

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