Human health effects of tetrachloroethylene: key findings and scientific issues. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed a toxicological review of tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene, PCE) in February 2012 in support of the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). OBJECTIVES: We reviewed key findings and scientific issues regarding the human health effects of PCE described in the U.S. EPA's Toxicological Review of Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethylene). METHODS: The updated assessment of PCE synthesized and characterized a substantial database of epidemiological, experimental animal, and mechanistic studies. Key scientific issues were addressed through modeling of PCE toxicokinetics, synthesis of evidence from neurological studies, and analyses of toxicokinetic, mechanistic, and other factors (tumor latency, severity, and background rate) in interpreting experimental animal cancer findings. Considerations in evaluating epidemiological studies included the quality (e.g., specificity) of the exposure assessment methods and other essential design features, and the potential for alternative explanations for observed associations (e.g., bias or confounding). DISCUSSION: Toxicokinetic modeling aided in characterizing the complex metabolism and multiple metabolites that contribute to PCE toxicity. The exposure assessment approach-a key evaluation factor for epidemiological studies of bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma-provided suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity. Bioassay data provided conclusive evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Neurotoxicity was identified as a sensitive noncancer health effect, occurring at low exposures: a conclusion supported by multiple studies. Evidence was integrated from human, experimental animal, and mechanistic data sets in assessing adverse health effects of PCE. CONCLUSIONS: PCE is likely to be carcinogenic to humans. Neurotoxicity is a sensitive adverse health effect of PCE.

published proceedings

  • Environ Health Perspect

altmetric score

  • 18.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Guyton, K. Z., Hogan, K. A., Scott, C. S., Cooper, G. S., Bale, A. S., Kopylev, L., ... Chiu, W. A.

citation count

  • 51

complete list of authors

  • Guyton, Kathryn Z||Hogan, Karen A||Scott, Cheryl Siegel||Cooper, Glinda S||Bale, Ambuja S||Kopylev, Leonid||Barone, Stanley||Makris, Susan L||Glenn, Barbara||Subramaniam, Ravi P||Gwinn, Maureen R||Dzubow, Rebecca C||Chiu, Weihsueh A

publication date

  • April 2014