EPA Changes to Safe Environmental Levels of Trichloroethylene

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may be present in soil and groundwater close to industrial plants that use solvents as well as in several industrial and commercial processes such as petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing.

In September 2011, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final health assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE), which a chlorinated hydrocarbon widely utilized in industrial degreasing solvent operations including cleaning of metal parts. The effect will be increased projected risk levels, lower detection limits that are not routinely available, and revision of remediation strategies in certain cases.

Soil, Groundwater and Vapor Intrusion

One of the most important implications of this health assessment will be the requirement for modification of risk-based remediation activities at chemical release sites where TCE is a subject of concern. The toxicity assessment of TCE will help to increase risk estimates by a factor of 2 to 9 based on the calculations utilized, eventually leading to more expensive cleanup activities at sites releasing TCE to soil or groundwater.

The EPA will evaluate TCE toxicity values while measuring the risk from vapor intrusion in addition to the development of proper regulatory standards to restrict atmospheric emissions of TCE, a harmful air pollutant according to the Clean Air Act. The intrusion of TCE vapors from contaminated soil and groundwater into indoor air of surrounding buildings is one of the emerging issues of the EPA. The deployment of new lower screening levels for groundwater and soil vapor will probably affect vapor intrusion analyses because these levels may need thorough assessments, which include soil vapor monitoring and indoor air sampling.

According to an EPA report, some cases have TCE levels in indoor air background concentrations between 1.1 (median) and 2.1 (90th percentile) µg/m3 in buildings that are not affected by vapor intrusion. These values are higher when compared to the revised levels. It may be a challenge to differentiate revised indoor air screening levels for TCE from background concentrations of TCE devoid of significant technological input.

Solution

Most of the existing technologies are not capable enough to determine TCE at the new level set by the EPA, a major challenge in addressing these new toxicity values, especially in the field. Nevertheless, mobile devices like the proton transfer reaction mass spectrometer (PTR-MS) from RJ Lee Group are capable of meeting these requirements by sampling VOCs in air concentration at a level down to single parts per trillion. Microsecond response time is provided by direct air sampling. This technology delivers an inch- by-inch comprehensive map of an area of interest or continuous minute-by-minute record of concentrations all over the day.

About RJ Lee Group

For nearly 30 years, RJ Lee Group, Inc. has excelled at providing analytical services, technical consulting, information management, and expert testimony in materials characterization and forensic engineering. Our services are sought by leading organizations in academia, industry, and government. Clients choose RJLG because of our reputation as an innovative solutions firm that is reliable, ethical, and committed to quality. The end result is outstanding customer satisfaction.

RJ Lee Group applies the most appropriate and efficient testing methods to deliver scientific resolution for a wide range of industries.Using state-of-the-art analytics, our multidisciplinary staff addresses diverse needs — including regulatory compliance, quality control, materials R&D, industrial hygiene and environmental health and safety.

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This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by RJ Lee Group.

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