U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division

Dense Nonaqueous Phase Liquids (DNAPLs)

Environmental Occurrence

Halogenated Alkenes


trichloroethyleneMillions of tons of trichloroethene (TCE), a widely used industrial solvent, are produced in the United States and abroad. Although its greatest use is in metal degreasing (Howard 1991 and ATSDR 1997), it is used as a solvent for fats, greases, waxes, cellulose ester, ethers, dyes, oils, household cleaners, paints, adhesives; as a refrigerant; heat exchange liquid; fumigant; inhalation analyzer or anesthetic; analgesic; chain terminator for PVC production; extractant in food processing (e.g., for decaffeinated coffee); disinfectant and detergent for skin, minor wounds, and surgical instruments; and chemical intermediate in the production of pesticides, gums, resins, tars, paints, varnishes, and chemicals, such as chloroacetic acid. It also is used for cleaning and drying electronic parts, textile processing, aerospace operations (flushing liquid oxygen), industrial extraction processes, and the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia.

TCE is detected more than any other volatile organic compound at concentrations of concern in ground water and drinking water wells (Zogorski et al. 2006). TCE also is the most widely detected organic chemical at NPL sites. The 2005 Toxics Release Inventory identified 379 facilities that together released an estimated 4,820,926 pounds of TCE to the air in 2005.

The Library of the U.S. Geological Survey provides links to several databases that contain information regarding TCE concentrations in various geographic locations, including water bodies.

For Further Information

The 2005 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Public Data Release Report

Certain classes of businesses report on their releases of pollution to EPA, which compiles the data in the TRI.

Adobe PDF LogoGroundwater Information Sheet: Trichloroethene (TCE)
California State Water Resources Control Board, 9 pp, 2009.

This brief groundwater information sheet provides general information (fate and transport, health effects, testing and remediation methods) and identifies where high levels of the compound are found in California. The information is pulled from a variety of sources, and a bibliography is provided.

Handbook of Environmental Fate and Exposure Data for Organic Chemicals, Volume II: Solvents
P. Howard. Lewis Publishers, 1991, 546 pp

This handbook is a compilation of physical, chemical, fate, and transport information on selected organic chemicals.

A Review of Contaminant Occurrence in Public Water Systems
Report: EPA 816-R-99-006, 1999

This study represents EPA's most extensive analysis to date of the occurrence of contaminants in nearly 26,000 public water systems regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. More than 70% of the data are from 1993 or later.

Adobe PDF LogoToxicological Profile for Trichloroethylene
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1997, 335 pp

This profile provides information on human health effects, fate and transport, production, and uses of TCE.

TCE Subregistry
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1997, 335 pp

The subregistry reports on the baseline findings and follow-up activities from the analyses of data collected from participants in the Trichloroethylene (TCE) Subregistry. The TCE Subregistry is part of the National Exposure Registry that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry created and maintains.

Adobe PDF LogoThe Quality of Our Nation's Waters: Volatile Organic Compounds in the Nation's Ground Water and Drinking-Water Supply Wells
Zogorski, John, Janet M. Carter, Tamara Ivahnenko, Wayne W. Lapham, Michael J. Moran, Barbara L. Rowe, Paul J. Squillace, and Patricia L. Toccalino
U.S. Geological Survey, USGS Circular 1292, 2006, 1112 pp

This report summarizes the findings of an investigation of aquifers that supply drinking water to the public. The purpose of the investigation was to determine the presence or absence of 55 volatile organic chemicals in the aquifers.