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What are other names or identifying information for trichloroethylene?

CAS Registry No.: 79-01-6
Other Names: TCE; 1,2,3-Trichloroethylene
Main Uses: Degreasing, solvent, chemical intermediate.
Appearance: Clear colourless volatile liquid.
Odour: Ethereal

Canadian TDG: UN1710


What is the WHMIS classification?

D1B - Toxic; D2A - Very Toxic (Carcinogenicity; Mutagenicity); D2B - Toxic (Skin irritant; Eye irritant)

Symbol for Class D1
Class D1B
Symbol for Class D2
Class D2A; D2B

What are the most important things to know about trichloroethylene in an emergency?

Emergency Overview: Clear colourless volatile liquid. Ethereal odour. Can ignite if strongly heated. Can form very hazardous decomposition products. Can accumulate in hazardous amounts in low-lying areas especially inside confined spaces. TOXIC if inhaled. May cause respiratory irritation. May cause drowsiness and dizziness. IRRITANT. Causes moderate or severe eye and skin irritation. CANCER HAZARD. May cause cancer. MUTAGEN. May cause genetic defects.


What are the potential health effects of trichloroethylene?

Main Routes of Exposure: Inhalation; skin contact; eye contact.

  • Inhalation: TOXIC, can cause death. Can irritate the nose and throat. Can harm the nervous system. Symptoms may include headache, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and confusion. A severe exposure can cause unconsciousness.
  • Skin Contact: SKIN IRRITANT. Causes moderate to severe irritation. Symptoms include pain, redness, and swelling. The vapour also irritates the skin. Can be absorbed through the skin, but harmful effects are not expected.
  • Eye Contact: EYE IRRITANT. Causes moderate to severe irritation. At high concentrations: the vapour also irritates the eyes.
  • Ingestion: Can irritate the mouth, throat and stomach. Can cause effects as described for inhalation.
  • Effects of Long-Term (Chronic) Exposure: Commerical trichloroethylene contains stabilizers, which may contribute to toxicity. Can cause dry, red, cracked skin (dermatitis) following skin contact. Conclusions cannot be drawn from the limited studies available. May harm the nervous system. Symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, memory loss, irritability, depression and reduced ability to think or reason. The nerves of the face and head (cranial nerves) may be affected by long-term exposure to trichloroethylene or chemicals formed when it decomposes. May cause hearing loss. May harm the liver. May harm the kidneys. May harm the immune system.
  • Carcinogenicity: Carcinogen. Known to cause:¬†kidney cancer.¬†Has been associated with: liver cancer, cancer of the lymphatic system.

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC): Group 1 - Carcinogenic to humans.
American Conference for Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH): A2 - Suspected human carcinogen.

  • Teratogenicity / Embryotoxicity: Not known to harm the unborn child.
  • Reproductive Toxicity: Not known to be a reproductive hazard. Conclusions cannot be drawn from the limited studies available.
  • Mutagenicity: MUTAGEN. May cause genetic damage based on animal information.

What are first aid measures for trichloroethylene?

Inhalation: Take precautions to ensure your own safety before attempting rescue (e.g. wear appropriate protective equipment). Move victim to fresh air. Call a Poison Centre or doctor.

Skin Contact: Avoid direct contact. Wear chemical protective clothing if necessary. Quickly take off contaminated clothing, shoes and leather goods (e.g. watchbands, belts). Immediately flush with lukewarm, gently flowing water for 15-20 minutes. Call a Poison Centre or doctor. Thoroughly clean clothing, shoes and leather goods before reuse or dispose of safely. Double bag, seal, label and leave contaminated clothing, shoes and leather goods at the scene for safe disposal.

Eye Contact: Avoid direct contact. Wear chemical protective gloves if necessary. Immediately flush the contaminated eye(s) with lukewarm, gently flowing water for 15-20 minutes, while holding the eyelid(s) open. If a contact lens is present, DO NOT delay flushing or attempt to remove the lens. If irritation or pain persists, see a doctor.

Ingestion: Have victim rinse mouth with water. Immediately call a Poison Centre or doctor.

First Aid Comments: If exposed or concerned, see a doctor for medical advice. All first aid procedures should be periodically reviewed by a doctor familiar with the chemical and its conditions of use in the workplace.


What are fire hazards and extinguishing media for trichloroethylene?

Flammable Properties: Can ignite if strongly heated and/or exposed to a high energy ignition source (e.g. a welding arc).

Suitable Extinguishing Media: Use extinguishing agent suitable for surrounding fire. If trichloroethylene is burning use: carbon dioxide, dry chemical powder, appropriate foam, water spray or fog.

Specific Hazards Arising from the Chemical: Vapour may accumulate in hazardous amounts in low-lying areas especially inside confined spaces, resulting in a toxicity hazard. Closed containers may rupture violently when heated releasing contents. In a fire, the following hazardous materials may be generated: very toxic carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide; corrosive hydrogen chloride; corrosive chlorine; corrosive phosgene; toxic halogenated compounds; and other chemicals.


What are the stability and reactivity hazards of trichloroethylene?

  • Chemical Stability: Stable if inhibited. Slowly decomposes in air. Sunlight, heat, air or oxygen, and moisture accelerate this reaction.
  • Conditions to Avoid: Open flames, sparks, static discharge, heat and other ignition sources. High energy sources, e.g. welding arcs. Sunlight. Water, moisture or humidity. Depletion of stabilizers.
  • Incompatible Materials: Increased risk of fire and explosion on contact with: alkali metals (e.g. sodium or potassium), strong bases (e.g. sodium hydroxide), strong oxidizing agents (e.g. perchloric acid), epoxides (e.g. ethylene oxide).Not corrosive to: carbon steel. Corrosive to aluminum and alloys (unspecified) when unstabilized, heated or in the presence of water.
  • Hazardous Decomposition Products: Very toxic carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide; corrosive hydrogen chloride; corrosive chlorine; corrosive phosgene; toxic halogenated compounds; and other chemicals
  • Possibility of Hazardous Reactions: None known.

What are accidental release measures for trichloroethylene?

Personal Precautions: Keep unnecessary and unprotected personnel out of spill area. Use personal protective equipment as required. Ventilate area. Do not touch damaged containers or spilled product unless wearing appropriate protective equipment. Increase ventilation to area or move leaking container to a well-ventilated and secure area. Eliminate ignition sources.

Methods for Containment and Clean-up: Do not touch spilled material. Stop or reduce leak if safe to do so. Dike and recover contaminated water for appropriate disposal. Place used absorbent into suitable, covered, labelled containers for disposal. Flush spill area. Contaminated absorbent poses the same hazard as the spilled product.


What handling and storage practices should be used when working with trichloroethylene?

Handling: Before handling, it is important that all engineering controls are operating and that protective equipment requirements and personal hygiene measures are being followed. Only trained personnel should work with this product. In event of a spill or leak, immediately put on escape-type respirator and exit the area. Immediately report leaks, spills or failures of the safety equipment (e.g. ventilation system). Prevent uncontrolled release of product. Prevent accidental contact with incompatible chemicals. Do not use near welding operations or other high energy sources. Keep containers tightly closed when not in use or empty. Never reuse empty containers, even if they appear to be clean.

Storage: Store in an area that is: cool, dry, well-ventilated, out of direct sunlight and away from heat and ignition sources, separate from incompatible materials, an approved, fire-resistant area. Keep amount in storage to a minimum. Store in the original, labelled, shipping container. Label container with date received, date opened and disposal date. Use a first-in, first-out inventory system. Empty containers may contain hazardous residue. Store separately. Keep closed. Avoid bulk storage indoors.


What is the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH®) recommended exposure limit for trichloroethylene?

ACGIH® TLV® - TWA: 10 ppm A2

ACGIH® TLV® - STEL [C]: 25 ppm A2

Exposure Guideline Comments: TLV® = Threshold Limit Value. TWA = Time-Weighted Average. STEL = Short-term Exposure Limit. C = Ceiling limit. A2 = Suspected human carcinogen.


What are the engineering controls for trichloroethylene?

Engineering Controls: It may be necessary to use stringent control measures such as process enclosure to prevent product release into the workplace. Use a ventilation system separate from other exhaust ventilation systems. Filter the contaminated air before it is directly exhausted to the outside. Provide eyewash and safety shower if contact or splash hazard exists.


What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is needed when working with trichloroethylene?

Eye/Face Protection: Wear chemical safety goggles. A face shield (with safety goggles) may also be necessary.

Skin Protection: Wear chemical protective clothing e.g. gloves, aprons, boots. Suitable materials include: polyvinyl alcohol, Viton®, Barrier® (PE/PA/PE), Silver Shield/4H® (PE/EVAL/PE), Trellchem® HPS, Trellchem® VPS, Tychem® BR/LV, Tychem® Responder, Tychem® TK.

Respiratory Protection: For non-routine or emergency situations: wear a NIOSH approved self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) or supplied air respirator. ESCAPE: gas mask with organic vapour canister, or escape type SCBA.

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Document last updated on November 5, 2013

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