Perchloroethylene (PCE) in Indoor and Outdoor Air

The Radon Specialist is a certified Radon Mitigation Contractor specializing in design and installation of high quality, effective radon reduction systems in North Carolina. Our radon systems are also effective in reducing the levels of Perchlorethylene (PCE) in both commercial and residential structures.  We service the Winston Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte areas. We believe in quality and customer satisfaction, and these are our core values. With over 12 years experience in contract work, we have the knowledge and understanding of what works and what does not. If you have a PCE problem or would like to know more about the PCE levels in your business or home, call us first. We will help you safely solve the problem.

What is perchloroethylene?

TriPer logoPerchloroethylene is a colorless, nonflammable liquid with a sweet, ether-like odor. It is also called tetrachloroethylene, PCE, or PERC. The chemical formula for perchloroethylene is C2Cl4

Perchloroethylene is a volatile organic compound (VOC); a manufactured chemical that is primarily used for dry cleaning fabrics and degreasing metals. It has also been used to make other chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons, and rubber coatings; as an insulating fluid and cooling gas in electrical transformers; and as a scouring, sizing, and de-sizing agent in textiles. It is an ingredient in aerosol products, solvent soaps, printing inks, adhesives, sealants, paint removers, paper coatings, leather treatments, automotive cleaners, polishes, lubricants, and silicones. It is also an ingredient in some consumer products, including typewriter correction fluid, adhesives, spot removers, wood cleaners, and shoe polish.

How might I be exposed to perchloroethylene?

You can be exposed to perchloroethylene if you dry clean your clothes, which will release small amounts of perchloroethylene into the air after they are dry cleaned, or if you use a laundromat that contains dry cleaning machines. You can also be exposed if you use products that contain perchloroethylene, such as fabric finishers, adhesives, spot removers, typewriter correction fluid, shoe polish, and wood cleaners. 

Exposure to low levels of perchloroethylene in the air and water can occur because of industrial releases. There is more perchloroethylene in the air in urban and industrial areas than in rural and remote areas. You can be exposed to higher levels if you live or work close to dry cleaning facilities, chemical waste sites, or chemical storage areas where perchloroethylene has been stored. 

At work, you can be exposed to perchloroethylene if you work in a dry cleaning, metal degreasing, chemical production, rubber coating, or textile facility.

How can perchloroethylene affect my health?

Short-term exposure to high levels of perchloroethylene can affect the central nervous system and cause unconsciousness and death. 

Perchloroethylene is listed as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" in the Twelfth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program because long-term exposure to perchloroethylene can cause leukemia and cancer of the skin, colon, lung, larynx, bladder, and urogenital tract. 

Long-term exposure may also damage the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys; it can also cause respiratory failure, memory loss, confusion, and dry and cracked skin. If you are pregnant, long-term exposure to perchloroethylene may damage a developing fetus. 

Short-term exposure to high levels of perchloroethylene can cause buildup of fluid in the lungs, eye and respiratory irritation, severe shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, sleepiness, confusion, difficulty speaking and walking, and lightheadedness. 

Short-term exposure to low levels of perchloroethylene can cause dizziness, inebriation, sleepiness, and irritated eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and respiratory tract. Direct contact with perchloroethylene liquid or vapor can irritate and burn the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. 

If you have a disease of the heart, liver, kidneys, or lungs, you will be more susceptible to the health effects of perchloroethylene. 

If you think your health has been affected by exposure to perchloroethylene, contact your health care professional.

How can I limit my exposure to PCE?

PCE can get into indoor air through contaminated drinking water, or by vapor intrusion. Maintaining adequate ventilation will also help reduce the indoor air levels of PCE. If PCE is in the indoor air as a result of vapor intrusion, a sub-slab depressurization system, much like a radon mitigation system, will reduce exposures by minimizing the movement of vapors that are beneath a slab into a building.