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Massachusetts Department of Public Health seal Massachusetts Environmental Public Health Tracking

Tetrachloroethene (PCE) is a manufactured chemical. It is a colorless organic liquid and is also called tetrachloroethylene, perchloroethylene, and PERC. In the U.S., PCE is used primarily in the textile industry as a component of dry-cleaning products. It is also used as a metal degreaser.

Did You Know?
PCE is reported to be the chemical most widely found in groundwater contamination at Superfund sites. However, there has been a steady decrease in the use of PCE in Massachusetts.

The general public has limited exposure to tetrachloroethene. However, people living near factories where it is manufactured or near dry cleaners may be exposed through their drinking water. Exposure can also occur in the home from the use of products such as automotive parts cleaners and degreasers, spot or paint removers, and rug cleaners that contain PCE. PCE can seep into groundwater from waste of manufacturing plants where it is made or from dry cleaners that use the chemical. This contaminates the drinking water in those areas. Read information on annual releases of toxic chemicals from certain industries.

Exposure to PCE at levels above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL) of .005mg/L can cause adverse health effects. Health effects of drinking contaminated water typically affect those who have long-term exposures to PCE. Drinking contaminated water for extended periods of time can cause damage to the liver as well as an increased risk of getting cancer. The health effects of exposure to low levels of PCE are unknown.

Data Considerations

When reviewing and interpreting drinking water tetrachloroethene data, it is important to take into consideration the following:

  • The data presented are for public water systems only. Residents may have exposure to PCE from private well water.
  • Exposure to PCE in drinking water depends upon the concentration of PCE in the drinking water and the amount of water consumed by the individual. Water consumption varies by such factors as climate and level of physical activity.
  • Many factors can affect whether exposure can lead to a health problem, including level of contamination, amount of water consumed, and the length of time water was contaminated. Some populations may be more susceptible to health problems following exposure, such as pregnant woman, children, and immune suppressed individuals.
  • This website provides a summary of drinking water violations by community. Consumer Confidence Reports on public drinking water quality are required to be provided annually to consumers. Your Community Water System should be contacted for this report, which will provide more detailed information on any specific water system violations.
  • Community Water Systems (CWSs) can serve areas substantially beyond the boundaries of the principal city/town served.
  • Multiple CWSs can serve the same city/town and multiple cities/towns can be served by a single.
  • Get a list of all Massachusetts Community Water Systems and communities served.

For additional information, please read the FAQ.

Available Data on Water Quality Measures for Tetrachloroethene (PCE)

Click the Explore Maps & Tables link button on this page to access the following measures for PCE in your community. The most current available data will be shown. Be sure to check the site periodically as new data are added each year.

To protect privacy, no information is shown that could identify an individual home or family.

  • Maximum PCE concentration by number of Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Mean PCE concentration by number of Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Maximum PCE concentration by number of people served by the Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Mean PCE concentration by number of people served by the Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Mean PCE concentration by individual Community Water System or county and year of testing
  • Drinking water violations by Community Water System or community and year of violation

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