Cambridge, the City of Water Contamination, Region of WaterPollution

By  | December 2, 2014 | 0 Comments | Filed under: About Trichloroethylene (TCE)

activist for clean waterWhat is Trichloroethylene (TCE)? We have plenty of it in Cambridge.

Pioneered by Imperial Chemical Industries in Britain, its development was hailed as an anesthetic revolution. Originally thought to possess less hepatotoxicity than chloroform, and without the unpleasant pungency and flammability of ether, TCE use was nonetheless soon found to have several pitfalls. These included promotion of cardiac arrhythmias, low volatility and high solubility preventing quick anesthetic induction, reactions with soda lime used in carbon dioxide absorbing systems, prolonged neurologic dysfunction when used with soda lime, and evidence of hepatotoxicity as had been found with chloroform.


The introduction of halothane in 1956 greatly diminished the use of TCE as a general anesthetic. TCE was still used as an inhalation analgesic in childbirth given by self-administration. Fetal toxicity and concerns for carcinogenic potential of TCE led to its abandonment in developed countries by the 1980s.
Due to concerns about its toxicity, the use of trichloroethylene in the food and pharmaceutical industries has been banned in much of the world since the 1970s. Legislation has forced the substitution of trichloroethylene in many processes in Europe as the chemical was classified as a carcinogen carrying an R45 risk phrase, May cause cancer. Many degreasing chemical alternatives are being promoted such as Ensolv and Leksol; however, each of these is based on n-propyl bromide which carries an R60 risk phrase of May impair fertility, and they would not be a legally acceptable substitute.
Groundwater contamination by TCE has become an important environmental concern for human exposure.
In 2005 it was announced by the United States Environmental Protection Agency that the agency had completed its Final Health Assessment for Trichloroethylene and released a list of new TCE toxicity values. The results of the study have formally characterized the chemical as a human carcinogen and a non-carcinogenic health hazard. A 2011 toxicological review performed by the EPA continues to list trichloroethylene as a known carcinogen.


The symptoms of acute non-medical exposure are similar to those of alcohol intoxication, beginning with headache, dizziness, and confusion and progressing with increasing exposure to unconsciousness. Respiratory and circulatory depression can result in death.
Some are exposed to TCE through contaminated drinking water. With a specific gravity greater than 1, trichloroethylene can be present as a dense nonaqueous phase liquid if sufficient quantities are spilled in the environment. Another significant source of vapor exposure in Superfund sites that had contaminated groundwater, such as the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, was by showering. TCE readily volatilizes out of hot water and into the air. Long, hot showers would then volatilize more TCE into the air. In a home closed tightly to conserve the cost of heating and cooling, these vapors would then recirculate.
Chlorides are another contaminant that causes issues. Development in West Galt will introduce a significant increase of chloride into our protected water source as well as being discharged in to our protected wetlands.  This will have irreparable and costly negative effects to these natural resources and our health.
So knowing more about the contaminants that currently exist in our cities own drinking water source, what can be done to ensure no further contaminants are fed in to the water we need for survival.
The groundwater source located in West Galt is recognized as being an area of “high risk for contamination” by the Grand River Conservation Authority. Development will have a negative impact to our drinking water.  The proposal for the Highland Ridge West development will be approved by the Regional Planning Department in the near future.
Write your concerns to Regional Council and to the Regional Planning Department, c/o Rob Horne.
Write these same concerns to Cambridge Council in regards to the Cambridge West MESP proposal that will have an even greater impact on further contamination to our drinking water source.

Each and every voice is an important voice, as combined we can make a difference, for the betterment of future generations, for better health and to protect our natural resources.

It all starts at the source.



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