It’s undeniable that the chemical industry has brought enormous wealth and prosperity to all aspects of modern life.
Chemicals have allowed agriculture to flourish, giving higher crop yields resulting in better nutrition. They have made it possible to create new medicines and vaccines, saving countless lives. They have provided the raw materials for a wide range of products we rely on, from clothing and cosmetics to electronic goods and construction materials.
There isn’t an aspect of modern life that hasn’t flourished thanks to the advances in this field.
However, there is a downside to our reliance on chemicals.
Many of the products that make our lives easier and more comfortable can also be harmful to our health and the environment. In recent years, there has been an increasing awareness of these risks and with it a growing movement to reduce our heavy dependence on chemicals and offset their impact.
One main area of concern is their environmental impact. The manufacture and use of chemicals can release harmful pollutants into the air, water, and soil. This can have a devastating effect on local ecosystems and can also contribute to climate change.
In addition, many chemicals are known to be toxic to humans and other animals. Once they seep into our environment, they can enter the food chain and end up in our bodies, where they can cause a range of health problems.
Two chemicals that have proven particularly problematic to humans are TCE and PCE.
What are TCE and PCE?
TCE (trichloroethylene) and PCE (perchloroethylene) are two industrial solvents heavily used in a wide variety of settings. These include industrial metal degreasing, textile processing, and electronics manufacturing.
They are also found in many everyday consumer products such as adhesives, paints, varnishes, and spot removers. PCE is very widely used as part of the dry-cleaning process, making it a common source of exposure for many people.
Both TCE and PCE are colorless, volatile, and odorless, making them difficult to detect. This means they can easily enter the air, water, and soil and be breathed in or ingested.
What impact can TCE and PCE have on a person?
You can get TCE and PCE poisoning if you come into contact with these chemicals in any way. You may breathe them in, swallow them, or absorb them through your skin. You can also get TCE and PCE poisoning from drinking water that has been contaminated with these chemicals.
Once they are in our bodies, they can build up in fatty tissues and organs, causing a range of health problems. There is a growing body of evidence linking TCE and PCE exposure to severe health concerns.
What are the symptoms of TCE or PCE poisoning?
The main symptoms of TCE and PCE poisoning are headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. In severe cases, it can lead to death. But many of these people don’t know they have it or even that they’ve been exposed to the chemicals because the symptoms can be very mild, especially at first.
A growing body of evidence links TCE and PCE exposure to cancer, liver damage, kidney damage, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, and reproductive problems. PCE has also been shown to be associated with severe vision impairments in human studies.
The EPA classified both TCE and PCE as “probable human carcinogens”. This means that there is evidence that they can cause cancer in humans. They also concluded in their TCE risk assessment that practically all uses of the chemical are considered an unreasonable risk.
Both chemicals have also been classified as human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). They have been shown to increase the risk of several types of cancer, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, bladder cancer, and breast cancer.
In addition to the risks posed by individual chemicals, there is also concern about the combined effect of multiple chemicals.
Many people are exposed to a cocktail of different chemicals on a daily basis through the food they eat, the water they drink, the air they breathe, and the products they use. The potential health effects of this chemical soup are largely unknown, but they are thought to be potentially harmful.
There is no cure or treatment for these poisons. However, an early diagnosis can help improve the quality of life and outlook for the patients. The first step would be to find the source of exposure and remove the patient from it to prevent further damage. Then they must receive medical assistance in treating the symptoms caused by the chemical poisoning.
How many people are affected by TCE and PCE exposure?
It is difficult to estimate how many people may be affected by TCE and PCE exposure because the chemicals are present in so many areas of our everyday lives and in so many of our surroundings. An EPA risk evaluation for PCE alone estimates that around 750,000 workers are directly exposed to PCE.
Still, their evaluation does not include consumers exposed to commercial products or to environmental contamination. This could include populations living in close proximity to manufacturing sites or those whose drinking water is contaminated by these facilities. They also don’t take into account other potential sources of exposure, such as air pollution or contaminated soil, so the real number of people exposed would be considerably higher.
How can TCE and PCE exposure be prevented?
If you work in an industry where these chemicals are used, it is important to follow safety guidelines and use personal protective equipment to avoid contact with the skin or inhalation of fumes.
It is also essential to be aware of the potential for exposure if you live near an industrial site where these chemicals are used or released. In particular, you should avoid activities that could bring you into contact with contaminated soil or water, such as swimming or gardening.
The problem is that many people and often whole populations don’t know they are being exposed to these chemicals when they have leached into their surroundings. This means that they suffer the consequences unknowingly and cannot take any measures for prevention.
It’s clear that we need to find ways to reduce our reliance on harmful chemicals and that we must hold the industries and manufacturers responsible for chemical contamination accountable for the negative consequences that their use brings.
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