Review of the epidemiologic literature on residential exposure to perchloroethylene

Crit Rev Toxicol. 2011 Oct;41(9):771-82. doi: 10.3109/10408444.2011.581649. Epub 2011 Jul 5.


Perchloroethylene is a solvent that is widely used for dry cleaning. There has been considerable interest in the toxicity of this chemical because of the potential for low-level exposure among a large portion of the US population. Although substantial epidemiologic literature exists on high-level occupational exposure to perchloroethylene, there are relatively few studies dealing with lower-level residential exposure. In the current paper, the author reviews this limited residential literature, with special emphasis on strengths, limitations, and consistency. Reviewed studies primarily address neurobehavioral, cancer, and reproductive endpoints. Most studies used an ecological or cross-sectional design, with exposure defined by either drinking-water contamination or proximity to dry cleaning. In general, reviewed studies were highly exploratory, with inconsistencies and potential for bias that detract from interpretation of study findings. The magnitudes of reported effects are frequently incompatible with the effects reported from much higher occupational and human-chamber exposures. Overall, few reliable conclusions can be drawn from this sparse and highly limited body of literature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Tetrachloroethylene / toxicity*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Tetrachloroethylene