TCE, short for Trichloroethylene, and also known as ‘trike’, is a flammable chemical solvent, most commonly used in its liquid form. TCE is sold under many trade names such as Acetylene trichloroethylene, Algylen, Anameth, Benzinol, Chlorilen, CirCosolv, Germalgene, Lethurin, Perm-a-chlor, Petzinol, Philex, TRI-Plus M and Vitran.
It is important to be aware of TCE because it readily gives off vapours which are irritating and harmful to humans, and in large exposures can even cause death.
In the past TCE was used extensively as a degreaser for metal parts and although its use has been in decline since the 1950’s, it can still be found in paint strippers and industrial chemical cleaners. TCE is still actively used as a part of the dry cleaning process and various other industries, including the PVC industry, aerospace, car manufacture and textile treatment.
There is also a similar, related, solvent used in the dry cleaning industry known as PCE or perchloroethylene.
TCE acts on the body to depress the central nervous system. Even mild exposure to TCE can lead to symptoms such as headache, drowsiness, dizziness, heightened emotions, nausea and confusion.
Inhaling TCE as a vapour can cause coughing, shortness of breath, burning of the mouth, throat and stomach and burning or stinging of the eyes. Exposure to liquid TCE can cause skin irritation, dermatitis and burns injuries.
Severe exposures can lead to rapid breathing, cardiac arrhythmia, cranial nerve dysfunction, damage to the liver and kidney, motor problems or even death. It is a suspected carcinogen, which means it is thought to cause cancer, particularly cancer of the liver and kidney. Additionally, there is a reported link between exposure to TCE and PCE and Parkinson’s Disease.
Someone exposed to harmful levels of TCE in a short period of time often gives the impression of being under the influence of alcohol in the aftermath of their exposure. Generally the longer or more someone is exposed to TCE, the worse the symptoms, but each person tends to react differently.
TCE does not just cause harm in workplace accidents. Exposure to small doses over a period of months or years can itself lead to some of the symptoms above, particularly those related to mild exposure.
TCE exposure most frequently takes place in the workplace. Where there is a risk of TCE exposure, employers are under duties to provide proper protective equipment, ensure there is adequate ventilation, and that the system of work is designed to minimise the risk of TCE exposure. Sadly, all too often employers are slapdash in their approach to safety, leading to workers being injured by TCE exposure, sometimes severely. Although accidental spillages during industrial processes can also lead to members of the public being exposed to TCE.
Another means by which the public can be exposed to TCE through the disposal of waste at the end of industrial processes. This exposure does not have to be immediate as TCE takes a long time to break down and when dumped or buried remains dangerous for many years. Unfortunately, environmental and health and safety regulations in the past were not as stringent as they are now and TCE spillages are often present in former industrial sites. Sites polluted in this way are often designated contaminated land.
As a dense non-aqueous phase liquid TCE can move a remarkable distance through the soil in what is called a “plume”. Plumes of TCE give off vapour which can reach the surface, including the interior of homes and other buildings. In this way a spillage location can affect properties hundreds of metres away. TCE exposure arising from the soil vapours typically takes the form of chronic low level exposure but this can take place over many years, and the impact upon members of the public can be significant.
If you are exposed to TCE, call our litigation team for specialist TCE exposure advice.
If you are exposed in the workplace, and your employer did not provide the proper equipment or take the proper steps to minimise the risk of your exposure, you may have a claim.
If you were exposed to TCE as a member of the public, then you may have a claim against whoever spilled or dumped the TCE you came into contact with.
If you are exposed to TCE within your home as a result of spillages from former industrial processes or are concerned about contaminated land or potentially contaminated land being a risk to your health, there may be a claim against those responsible for depositing the TCE on the land. Additionally, there may be a claim against those who failed to adequately identify and prevent harm to members of the public during the redevelopment of potentially contaminated land.
Personal injury cases have strict time limits of three years from the date of injury, although in some circumstances those three years can begin from the date of knowledge of the injury and the negligence associated with it. If you believe you have been exposed to TCE you should act promptly and take legal advice.
Collins Solicitors has decades of experience in cases of toxic exposure both in the workplace and because of contaminated land. Our expert litigation team can assist you in assessing whether you have a claim. Please call us on 01923 223 324 or 0800 731 5821. Alternatively contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.