On this page
- What are other names or identifying information for trichloroethylene?
- What is the WHMIS classification?
- What are the most important things to know about trichloroethylene in an emergency?
- What are the potential health effects of trichloroethylene?
- What are first aid measures for trichloroethylene?
- What are fire hazards and extinguishing media for trichloroethylene?
- What are the stability and reactivity hazards of trichloroethylene?
- What are unintentional release measures for trichloroethylene?
- What handling and storage practices should be used when working with trichloroethylene?
- What is the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH®) recommended exposure limit for trichloroethylene?
- What are the engineering controls for trichloroethylene?
- What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is needed when working with 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 (sometimes dyed blue).
Odour: Ethereal, chloroform-like
Canadian TDG: UN1710
According to the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), trichloroethylene can be classified as:
Skin corrosion/irritation - Category 2
Serious eye damage/eye irritation - Category 2A
Germ cell mutagenicity - Category 2
Carcinogenicity - Category 1A
Reproductive toxicity - Category 1B
Specific target organ toxicity - single exposure (narcotic effects) - Category 3 - Narcotic effect
Specific target organ toxicity - repeated exposure - Category 1
Aspiration hazard - Category
The signal word is danger.
The hazard statements are:
- Causes skin irritation
- Causes serious eye irritation
- Suspected of causing genetic defects
- May cause cancer
- May damage fertility or the unborn child
- May cause drowsiness or dizziness
- Causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure
- May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways
Please note that this classification was retrieved from the CNESST site on September 28, 2022 and was established by CNESST personnel to the best of their knowledge based on data obtained from scientific literature and it incorporates the criteria contained in the Hazardous Products Regulations (SOR/2015-17). It does not replace the supplier’s classification which can be found on its Safety Data Sheet.
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.
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: Commercial 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.
Inhalation: Take precautions to ensure your own safety before attempting rescue (e.g., wear appropriate protective equipment). Move victim to fresh air. If breathing has stopped, trained personnel should begin artificial respiration (AR). Get medical attention as soon as possible.
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 gently flowing water for 15-20 minutes. Get medical attention immediately. 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 gently flowing water for 15-20 minutes, occasionally lifting the upper and lower eyelids. If a contact lens is present, DO NOT delay flushing or attempt to remove the lens. Get medical attention immediately.
Ingestion: Have victim rinse mouth with water. Get medical attention immediately.
First Aid Comments: Some of the first aid procedures recommended here require advanced first aid training. If exposed or concerned, see a medical professional for advice. All first aid procedures should be periodically reviewed by a medical professional familiar with the chemical and its conditions of use in the workplace.
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 an extinguishing agent suitable for the 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.
- 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: None known.
- Possibility of Hazardous Reactions: None known.
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.
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 the product. Prevent unintentional 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.
ACGIH® TLV® - TWA: 10 ppm A2 BEI®
ACGIH® TLV® - STEL [C]: 25 ppm A2
Exposure Guideline Comments: TLV® = Threshold Limit Value. TWA = Time-Weighted Average. STEL = Short-term Exposure Limit. A2 = Suspected human carcinogen. BEI® = Biological Exposure Index.
Adapted from: 2022 TLVs® and BEIs® - Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and Biological Exposure Indices. Cincinnati: American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).
NOTE: In many (but not all) Canadian jurisdictions, the exposure limits are similar to the ACGIH® TLVs®. Since legislation varies by jurisdiction, contact your local jurisdiction for exact details. A list is available in the OSH Answers on Canadian Governmental Occupational Health & Safety Departments.
A list of which acts and regulations that cover exposure limits to chemical and biological agents is available on our website. Please note that while you can see the list of legislation for free, you will need a subscription to view the actual documentation.
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.
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: Viton®, Silver Shield® - PE/EVAL/PE, ChemMAX® 4 Plus, Frontline® 500, AlphaTec® (02-100, EVO, VPS), Tychem® (5000, 6000, 6000 FR, 9000, Responder® CSM, 10000, 10000 FR), Zytron® (300, 500).
Not recommended: butyl rubber, natural rubber, neoprene rubber, polyvinylchloride – PVC, Kemblok®, Saranex®, Chemprotex® 300, AlphaTec® 4000.
At concentrations above the NIOSH REL, or where there is no REL, at any detectable concentration:
(APF = 10,000) Any self-contained breathing apparatus that has a full facepiece and is operated in a pressure-demand or other positive-pressure mode; or Any supplied-air respirator that has a full facepiece and is operated in a pressure-demand or other positive-pressure mode in combination with an auxiliary self-contained positive-pressure breathing apparatus.
APF = Assigned Protection Factor
Recommendations apply only to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved respirators. Refer to the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards for more information.
NOTE: NIOSH has classified this substance as a potential occupational carcinogen, according to specific NIOSH criteria. This classification is reflected in these recommendations for respiratory protection, which specify that only the most reliable and protective respirators be worn at any detectable concentration. The requirements in Canadian jurisdictions may vary.
- Fact sheet last revised: 2023-01-27