Trichloroethylene Linked to Parkinson’s Disease
Trichloroethylene is a chemical that is heavily used in the manufacture of a variety of products. Whilst versatile, it poses health risks to those exposed to it. It has been linked to an increased risk for Parkinson’s Disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and liver cancer.
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a chlorinated solvent that is commonly used for a variety of applications, from the pharmaceutical to the aerospace industry. It is used in the automotive and metal industry for degreasing. The textile industry uses trichloroethylene to extract greases, oils, fats, waxes and tars on cotton, wool, and other fabrics; additionally, it is used for dyeing and finishing. Trichloroethylene can also be found in some household products, such as adhesives, varnishes, wood finishes, carpet cleaners, and paint and stain removers. It is also commonly used as a spot remover by commercial dry cleaners.
• Easily evaporates
• Colourless at room temperature
• No odour at lower concentrations
• Has an ether-like odour at high concentrations
Dangers of TCE
For all its usefulness, TCE presents various health hazards to humans, with the levels of exposure depending on the dose, duration and the type of work a person has been doing using the chemical.
Some of its known effects include:
• May cause irritation to the eyes and skin
• Liver damage
Trichloroethylene is a known carcinogen. Over the recent decades, TCE has also been linked to Parkinson’s disease.
Linked to Parkinson’s Disease
Various medical studies have linked Parkinson’s disease to TCE. In a 2008 study, researchers led by Don M. Gash and John T. Slevin of the University of Kentucky, results showed a strong potential link between chronic TCE exposure and parkinsonism.
(Wiley-Blackwell. (2008, January 9). Trichloroethylene (TCE) Is A Risk Factor For Parkinsonism, Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October
28, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080107181340.htm)
Another study, conducted by Dr. Samuel Goldman and Dr. Caroline Tanner of The Parkinson’s Institute in 2011, found that individuals regularly exposed to TCE had six times the risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease.
(2011, November 15). Parkinson’s Linked to Industrial Solvent. Retrieved October 30, 2020 from https://www.couriermail.com.au/ipad/
In 2018, a former Australian serviceman received the first acknowledgment from the Navy that exposure to TCE during his service was the cause of his Parkinson’s disease.
In August 2020, Bastiaan Bloem MD, a Dutch neurologist and professor at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, stated that there will be an exponential increase in the number of people with Parkinson’s disease -from the present 6.5 million to 13 million. He points to widespread exposure to herbicides, toxic chemicals, and solvents, including TCE, as the culprit. An expert on Parkinson’s disease, Dr. Bastiaan Bloeme aims to raise awareness of the fact that “Parkinson’s is now the fastest-growing neurological condition on the Planet,” warning of a ‘Parkinson’s Pandemic’.
Luxner, Larry. (2020, April 6). Dutch Neurologist Warns of ‘Parkinson’s Pandemic’ Linked to Toxic Chemicals. Retrieved October 30, 2020. from https://parkinsonsnewstoday.com/2020/04/06/dutch-neurologist-bas-bloem-warns-of-parkinsons-pandemic/
Methods of Exposure
Exposure can occur by inhalation, ingestion and absorption through the skin. This is especially true for those who work with TCE.
Unfortunately, TCE may also be found in the air, water and soil at places where it is manufactured or used. Because it disperses slowly, readily permeates through soil and can accumulate in groundwater, and may pollute drinking water wells. It can also move into rivers or lakes, and then evaporate into the air. TCE can also evaporate from polluted soil and groundwater and rise towards the surface, entering through cracks in building foundations, pipes, or drains, resulting in contaminated indoor air. It can be present in the environment even for decades afterwards.
This can mean that the general population can also be exposed to TCE by inhalation of indoor or outdoor air, or ingestion of contaminated drinking water or food that has been washed or processed using contaminated water.
Reducing TCE Exposure
According to the Australian Code of Practice, the actions stipulated in the “Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace” should be followed to reduce the risk to employees and the environment. TCE should be replaced with a safer alternative if it’s use cannot be eliminated entirely.
People living in areas where the use and manufacture of TCE is known should avoid drinking water from wells; outdoor activities in these areas should also be kept to a minimum.
Contact your local authorities if you suspect that TCE might be present in your area to find out what needs to be done in order to reduce or eliminate the risks of exposure to you and your family.