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New Report on Carcinogens Lists Tce and Cobalt

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 14th Report on Carcinogens includes two newly reviewed substances with industrial applications: the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) and the metallic element cobalt and cobalt compounds. Five viruses that have been linked to cancer in humans also were added to the list.

A listing in the report indicates a cancer hazard but by itself does not mean that a substance or virus will cause cancer. Factors including an individual’s susceptibility to a substance and the amount and duration of exposure can affect whether a person will develop cancer.

TCE, an industrial solvent used primarily to make hydrofluorocarbon chemicals, is listed as a known human carcinogen. TCE was originally listed as a reasonably anticipated human carcinogen  in 2000. TCE can be released into the air, water or soil. Because of its widespread use as a metal degreasing agent to maintain military equipment, it has been found in the groundwater at many military and Superfund sites.

Cobalt and cobalt compounds are listed as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Cobalt is a naturally occurring element used to make metal alloys and other metal compounds such as military and industrial equipment, and rechargeable batteries. The listing is based largely on studies in experimental animals.

Employers and workers are advised to take precuationary measures, including the use of engineering controls and personal protective equipment, to prevent exposure to TCE and cobalt.