Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in Drinking Water linked to Increasing Risk of Having Mental Illness?
A chemical called tetrachloroethylene (PCE) is found to increase risk of having mental illness, according to a study made by researchers from the Boston University. PCE is a chlorocarbon, a volatile and excellent solvent, and therefore it is widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics. It is slightly carcinogenic, and it’s a central nervous system depressant that can enter the body through inhaling its vapors or skin absorption. Despite its harmful properties, it is still the ‘ideal’ cleaning agent in the dry-cleaning industry.
PCE long suspected to cause mental illness
Previous studies show that children of people who work in the dry cleaning industry have an increased risk of schizophrenia, a serious mental disorder. That seemed to indicate that younger brains are more prone to damage brought by PCE vapors, which progresses later into schizophrenia.
The Boston University study shows that PCE exposure is linked to increased risk of having mood changes, anxiety and depression, especially among those who work in close contact with it (like dry cleaners). Individuals who were exposed to PCE vapors while still in womb or during early childhood had twice the risk of having bipolar disorder, and 50% higher risk of PTSD, compared to unexposed individuals.
According to the study, the risks were especially high to individuals who were first exposed in while still in womb, or through early childhood. In Massachusetts, vinyl lined (VL/AC) pipes was used for water pipes during 1960’s to early 1980’s, which leach PCE into drinking water. This is implicated for the high incidence of mental illness amongst adults born between 1969 and 1983.
While it is impossible to determine the exact amount of PCE these people were exposed to, the levels of PCE were astoundingly high – as much as 1,550 times the recommended safe limit. Though VL/AC pipes were not used for delivering drinking water in most states, it is still in widespread use in other countries. PCE exposure is also high among people who work in dry cleaning and textile industries.
The study is available in the BioMed Central’s journal Environmental Health.