The National Toxicology Program (NTP) issued a draft report last week recommending that trichloroethylene (TCE), a common drinking water contaminant that has been used as a degreaser and feedstock for producing refrigerants, be reclassified from “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” to “known to be a human carcinogen.” The NTP is an interagency program housed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Released June 27, the Peer-Review Draft: Report on Carcinogens Monograph on Trichloroethylene is part of a congressionally mandated process to periodically review substances that may pose a cancer hazard for people in the United States. The report will be peer-reviewed at a public meeting in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, on August 12, 2014.

The report’s authors considered human epidemiological data, along with various toxicological, toxicokinetic and mechanistic studies, in reaching the conclusion that TCE causes kidney cancer. They found limited evidence that TCE can lead to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Given its widespread historic use, TCE is found throughout the environment. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, TCE is present at nearly 13 percent of the nation’s 1,739 active Superfund sites.

The NTP’s recommendation to reclassify TCE as a known carcinogen may change as a result of the peer review. In the meantime, a variety of companies − including industrial companies and owners of property historically used for industrial purposes or dry cleaning operations − may want to monitor this potential reclassification closely.