Legal ruling on TCE in Parkinson’s case is a game-changer


trichloroethylene causes parkinson's diseaseA former Australian serviceman has been the first to receive the Navy’s acknowledgement that exposure to the industrial chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) during his service caused him to develop Parkinson’s disease. The recent decision by the Veterans’ Entitlements Appeal Board could have far-reaching consequences for many Australian institutions and industries, including the possibility of class action lawsuits.

Keith Bailey served in the Australian Navy for 36 years. During his career, Keith used a product called Turco Solv to clean motor parts on ships. This metal cleaner contained (TCE), a powerful industrial solvent and degreaser. Keith regularly, and for extended periods of time, used Turco Solv to clean engine parts and wash himself down to remove grease from his skin at the end of the day.

By the time Keith left the Navy in 2003 he was already suffering from the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder affecting the central nervous system. It results in limb tremors, slow movements and speech impairment. The disease is caused by the breaking down and death of certain nerve cells leading to an absence of a chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine. There is no cure for Parkinson’s.

In 2016 the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) formally recognised exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) as a cause of Parkinson’s. This decision was based on a major international study from 2011 which found “significant association” between TCE exposure and Parkinson’s, suggesting the chemical likely resulted in a six-fold increase in the chances of developing the disease. The study also found a lag time of up to 40 years between trichloroethylene exposure and the onset of Parkinson’s – identifying a critical window of opportunity to potentially screen for and slow the disease before symptoms appear.

Accepting the link between trichloroethylene exposure and Parkinson’s has also created another legacy issue for the Australian government. Wide-spread and common-place dumping of TCE waste in the past has created significant soil and groundwater pollution. In some suburbs across Australia, TCE vapour is rising from beneath residential homes and creating toxic levels of air pollution. Many of the original polluting companies have since closed down, so the government is left with the labour intensive and expensive exercise of identifying at-risk suburbs, communicating and reassuring residents, measuring and monitoring TCE pollution, and installing fan systems to disperse dangerous vapours before they enter homes.

Keith Bailey’s case could set a precedent for how government and private industries are held accountable for both historical safety and pollution practices and current on the job risks. The use of TCE has been banned or strictly regulated in many areas, however, it is still widely used in workshops for parts cleaning and metal degreasing. Continued use of TCE in the workplace, despite knowing the risk profile of this chemical, leaves organisations vulnerable to future litigation, penalties and claims. It also creates an avoidable atmosphere of worry, stress and discomfort in the workplace, and the longer-term risk of serious disease for workers.

Trichloroethylene exposure has been definitively linked to Parkinson’s disease. The legacy cases of suffering and harm are likely to gain in momentum after the DVA’s decision in Keith Bailey’s case. Organisations can no longer claim ignorance about the devastating long-term consequences of this chemical. Safer chemical substitutes must be sought to replace TCE, especially for workshop tasks such as parts washing and metal degreasing. Where TCE is used, stringent safety protocols must be put in placed to protect workers from skin and vapour exposure. Ultimately, the only safe course of action is a complete ban on TCE across all Australian industries.

View the ABC 7.30 report video below.

8 responses to “Legal ruling on TCE in Parkinson’s case is a game-changer”

  1. Cynthia Hickson says:

    CDC case. CDC-198974-C8S2V2
    Royce’s Parkinson’s
    My husband, of 45 years of marriage, Royce Dean Hickson, is 75 years old and has Parkinson’s. His Parkinson’s is from the TCE he use in the Army between 1964 and 1967 to clean the surfaces on communication radio before soldering on new components with nylon gloves for a year in Korea. The remainder of his enlistment was spent cleaning Cosmoline off of Tank Turret parts with leather gloves before assembling them.
    He was not drafted, he enlisted and after his 3 years commitment, received an Honorable Discharge. The VA in Houston claims his Parkinson’s is not military connected because he was not exposed for 8 years. None of his family ever had Parkinson’s.

  2. Sandra Collins says:

    Trichloroethylene removes key nutrients from the body specifically zinc. No zinc in the body causes Parkinson’s disease.

    Refer to: Role of Some Micronutrients in Ameliorating the Destructive Effect of Trichloroethylene on Kidney and Testes of male rats.

  3. Norma Miller says:

    I worked in Trichloroethylene on my job at a air conduction plant I have developed kidney cancer thyroid cancer and Parkinson’s

  4. Julie Blackowski says:

    My husband worked in the automotive industry as a mechanic for 30 years and used brake cleaner degreaser almost daily to clean parts and his hands. He has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at a early age of 58. I’m convinced that the brake cleaner TCE has caused his Parkinson’s.

  5. Shirley Israel says:

    The same situation as my husband. He is 71, diagnosed at 68. He worked as a mechanic at dealerships got years. His spare time building race car engines. Degreaser was a constant, brake cleaner his go to for everything. We even had a larger dip tank to dip parts in. Never gloves. I know the TCE is his cause too. Surprising there are not TCE Lawsuits.

  6. George Kozitza says:

    Are you aware of any suits/legal firms related to exposure to TCE and Parkinson’s?

  7. Cindy says:

    Same, my husband worked at a machine shop and was diagnosed at 58.

  8. Shirley Israel says:

    My husband was a mechanic at Dealerships in so cali for 40 yrs. He also built his owner race car motors. He always used degreasers. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2021. But I can now see that he has had symptoms for years.
    I believe that TCE caused his Parkinson’s, but lawsuits are not available to help TCE exposure.

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