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Massachusetts Department of Public Health seal Massachusetts Environmental Public Health Tracking

Trichloroethene is a colorless or blue chemical with a sweet odor. It is also called trichloroethylene (TCE). In the U.S., TCE is used primarily to remove grease from metals and in the production of some textiles. It is also a component of some adhesives, paint removers, and spot removers. It does not occur naturally in the environment.

The general public has limited exposure to trichloroethene. However, people living near businesses or factories where it is used, such as metal degreasing sites, can have higher exposure. Exposure can also occur in the home from the use of products such as spot or paint removers and rug cleaners that contain TCE. Wastewater from these factories may contain TCE that can seep into groundwater and contaminate drinking water sources in the area. Common uses of water contaminated with TCE for such things as washing dishes and laundry, showering, cooking and drinking can lead to exposure through ingestion or inhalation. Read information on annual releases of toxic chemicals from certain industries.

Exposure to TCE above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.EPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL) of .005mg/L can have adverse health effects. Drinking water that has high levels of TCE can cause nausea, liver damage, and impaired heart function. Health effects of drinking contaminated water typically affect those who have long-term exposures to TCE. Drinking water with low levels of TCE for extended periods of time can cause damage to the liver and kidneys, reduced immune system function, and impaired fetal development in pregnant women. TCE may be a human carcinogen at high levels of exposure or exposure over a long duration.

Data Considerations

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

  • The data presented are for public water systems only. Residents may have exposure to TCE from private well water.
  • Exposure to TCE in drinking water depends upon the concentration of TCE 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 (CWS) should be contacted for this report, which will provide more detailed information on any specific water system violations.
  • Community Water Systems 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.
  • For a list of all Massachusetts community public water systems and communities served, click here (pdf).

For additional information, please read the FAQ.

Available Data on Water Quality Measures for Tricholorethene

Click the Explore Maps & Tables link button on this page to access the following measures for trichloroethene 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 TCE concentration by number of Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Mean TCE concentration by number of Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Maximum TCE concentration by Community Water System and year of testing
  • Mean TCE concentration by Community Water System and year of testing
  • Maximum TCE concentration by number of people served by the Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Mean TCE concentration by number of people served by the Community Water Systems and year of testing
  • Mean TCE 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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