This week, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a ban on trichloroethylene, a commonly used chemical that causes cancer and other deadly illnesses.
What is trichloroethylene?
Trichloroethylene, or TCE, has a wide range of uses. It’s an ingredient in cleaners, degreasers, sealants, adhesives, spray coatings used for arts and crafts, and various other products used both industrially and by consumers.
TCE is unacceptably risky
The EPA has been evaluating the risks and impacts of TCE on workers and consumers for years. It concluded that in more than 96% of possible use cases, TCE posed an unreasonable threat to the health of people exposed to it, even as bystanders.
This ban has been a long time coming
The deadly effects of TCE have been known for decades. The EPA held its presser in Woburn, Massachusetts, where from the 1950s companies dumped TCE in huge quantities, polluting the soil and drinking water.
A personal fight
People living in the polluted area experienced various adverse effects, including deadly cancers. The mother of one child, who died of leukemia in 1981 at just 12 years old, was at the EPA press conference. She’s spent decades battling to make the polluting companies pay for the deaths and damage they caused by dumping TCE.
Sen. Ed Markey supports the ban
Also present was longtime Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey. “This toxic chemical has torn apart families and communities for too long,” he said. “Now, we get to ensure that no other family knows this grief.”
The tragic legacy of TCE
Markey and EPA officials spoke from a bus and train station named after Jimmy Anderson, the young boy who died of leukemia linked to TCE. “Today is a moment we have been fighting for for nearly 45 years,” he said.
TCE causes many types of cancers
Leukemia isn’t the only cancer connected with TCE. It’s believed to cause several types, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which can be one of the most aggressive types of cancer.
The other problems caused by TCE
The toxic chemical can also damage the reproductive, immune, nervous, and organs like the liver and kidneys.
TCE is still widespread
Despite the deadly effects, some 250 million pounds of TCE are utilized every year in America.
The ban would waste little time
Nevertheless, the proposed rule gives almost all users just one year to stop using TCE. In specific cases, such as the manufacture of batteries, producers will be allowed more time to phase out the use of the chemical.
Public comment period
There are 45 days for the public to comment on the proposal.
Part of a broader initiative
The proposal is part of President Biden’s “moonshot” initiative. “His goal is to end cancer as we know it,” explained EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe. In real terms, that means reducing cancer deaths by more than half in the next 25 years.
Personal for Biden
This proposal has a deeper meaning for Biden. His son, Beau, died of cancer several years ago, which may have been caused by exposure to toxic gases while serving in Iraq.
A big step
If successfully passed, this proposal will be a big step towards achieving that goal and protecting Americans from the negligence and carelessness of massive companies.
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