MassDEP to Revisit 200 TCE Sites to Assess Risk of Birth Defects

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will be returning to 200 previously-closed trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination sites to determine if TCE poses an imminent hazard in those locations. The selected sites were closed for further cleanup prior to the EPA’s 2011 finding that short-term maternal exposure to TCE is associated with a higher risk of cardiac birth defects in children. The MDEP will collect samples to assess the risks associated with these sites.

PROTECT investigates groundwater water contamination with TCE in Puerto Rico and its potential impacts on health, especially the high preterm birth rate, on the island.

TCE is used as a degreaser for industrial metal parts and as an extraction solvent for organic oils. In 2011, the EPA released a study linking TCE with cancer (especially of the kidney) as well as congenital heart defects. Given these new toxicity concerns, the MDEP identified 200 sites of prior TCE contamination that were closed prior to the EPA’s determination and may have elevated levels of TCE.

Massachusetts is the first state to return to sites that were closed under prior EPA standards. The MDEP’s actions may set a precedent for neighboring states to conduct their own reviews of TCE contaminated sites.

To learn more, see the Environmental NewsStand’s Risk Policy Report dated 02/16/2016.