Tetrachloroethylene is a solvent used for dissolving organic materials. Itís most commonly used by dry cleaners and as an automotive degreaser. Tetrachloroethylene can also be found in many common consumer products, such as paint strippers, spot removers, printing inks, adhesives, polishes, lubricants, and pesticides.
Most often, tetrachloroethylene finds its way into local water supplies from spills or illegal dumping by dry cleaning facilities.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has labeled tetrachloroethylene as a Group 2A carcinogen with the potential to cause cancer. It also attacks the central nervous system, depressing brain activity. Tests have shown that exposure to tetrachloroethylene can disrupt pregnancy in animals. In humans, long-term exposure can result in liver and kidney damage.
Testing for tetrachloroethylene exposure is the same as using an alcohol breathalyzer. The chemical gets stored in body fat, slowly releasing into the bloodstream. This makes tetrachloroethylene detectable for weeks after heavy exposure.