EPA Targets ‘Silent Killer’ in Tap Water – A Nationwide Ban Proposed on Toxic TCE Chemical Amid Health Crisis
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a ban on TCE. This deadly chemical has been found in drinking water sources all over the USA. Here’s the whole story.
The Biden administration is taking steps to ban the use of trichloroethylene (TCE), a highly toxic chemical commonly found in stain removers, adhesives, and degreasers, as it has been discovered to contaminate drinking water extensively across the United States.
This decision follows years of scientific evidence revealing that TCE poses a significant health risk even at low exposure levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statement.
“The science is loud and clear on TCE. It is a dangerous toxic chemical, and proposing to ban it will protect families, workers, and communities,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe.
Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is a volatile organic compound frequently encountered by humans in various settings. Those who work with products containing this chemical in an occupational environment face the most significant risk.
Serious Health Concerns
Scientific research has linked TCE to a range of health problems, including its potential carcinogenicity and its adverse effects on the liver, male reproductive system, nervous system, and kidneys, and its association with Parkinson’s disease.
Concerns about TCE water contamination have emerged in connection with cancer clusters and its presence in military base drinking water, which is believed to have caused illnesses and fatalities among service members.
Areas in the US with high TCE contamination levels have been designated Superfund sites reserved for the most polluted locations in the nation.
Recent EPA research has revealed that up to 250 million pounds of TCE are still produced annually in the US, with a significant portion ending up in water sources.
Trump Reversed Stringent Limits
Efforts to ban TCE have been ongoing for 40 years. In 2016, the Obama administration proposed stringent limits on its use. However, the Trump administration reversed those measures, effectively suspending the process.
The Biden administration is taking a more comprehensive step by proposing an outright ban, a rare move by the EPA when regulating toxic chemicals.
Public health advocates have been pushing for a prohibition since the passage of legislation in 2016 that expanded the EPA’s authority over toxic chemicals and facilitated their prohibition.
Advocates have commended the Biden administration for its actions. “This rule will save countless lives and billions of dollars related to healthcare costs, missed work, and environmental cleanup,” said Avonna Starck, Minnesota state director of Clean Water Action.
The Need for Chemical Regulation
New York and Minnesota have already banned TCE, setting an example of how state actions can encourage the federal government to take steps in chemical regulation.
The EPA has determined that TCE poses an “unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment” in 52 of 54 industrial and consumer product uses.
The agency and public health advocates have pointed out that safer, commercially viable alternatives are available.
However, industry representatives are opposing the rule. The American Chemistry Council has argued that the rule is “inconsistent with the underlying science” and criticized the EPA’s studies as “unrealistic.”
Will Trump Reverse It Again?
They maintain that TCE should not be restricted in many industrial applications.
The finalization of the rule may take a year or longer. Should former President Trump win re-election in 2024 before the ban comes into effect, there is a possibility that it could be reversed.
Public health advocates intend to continue exerting pressure on the EPA to expedite the implementation of the rule.
The news has led to an outcry online. Many commenters questioned how the situation was allowed to get as bad as it has become.
“It’s Not Fair, It Sucks, and It’s Dangerous”
One such comment read, “These chemicals are already everywhere, attribution can be nearly impossible, and no laws were broken. It’s not fair, it sucks, and it’s dangerous. But now the mess is everywhere.”
Others sought to use the crisis to push for more changes to the American healthcare system, with one poster commenting, “The failure of our government to regulate corporations and protect citizens just further justifies the need for universal health care to me.”
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dean Drobot