Via America’s Lawyer: As if our country’s waterways weren’t already contaminated enough by PFAS, another toxin called Trichloroethylene (TCE) has seeped into sources of drinking water nationwide. Attorney Madeline Pendley joins Mike Papantonio to explain how factories are endangering the lives of their workers and surrounding areas with these cancer-causing chemicals, which are prevalent in both industrial and household cleaning agents. Why hasn’t the EPA taken action when they’ve known about the risks for years?


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             The EPA has known for years about the dangers of an industrial chemical known as TCE, but without regulations, tens of thousands of businesses today are still exposing their workers to this toxin, which has made it’s way from factories into our drinking water. Attorney Madeline Pendley joins me to talk about this. Maddie, tell us what TCEs are.

Madeline Pendley:        So TCE is Trichloroethylene, it’s a manmade chemical. So we came up with this. And it’s actually used mostly in factories for cleaning of medical equipment and metal parts, but it’s also found in different cleaning products that we all use and are therefore exposed to in our own homes. Despite being used in so many different ways, it’s actually extremely dangerous. It’s a class one carcinogen, and it has been for a very long time.

Mike Papantonio:             Kidney cancer, liver cancer, birth defects, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It has the capacity to do that.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s in cleaning, as you point out it’s in, it’s, they use it to clean electronics. They use it in refrigeration. They use it in dry cleaning. Many, many uses of it and they, the industry, Dow chemical.

Madeline Pendley:        Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             And it has known for a very long time, how dangerous this is. There’s some countries they don’t, there you can’t even use it. It’s banned totally.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             I’m wondering what kinds of health problems besides those are emerging? Where are we seeing the biggest clusters of health problems?

Madeline Pendley:        Really all over the country. So geographically, there’s, there’s a little bit in every state it seems like. They’re mostly central, centralized around these factories or these manufacturing facilities. So either the air around those facilities is polluted and it actually seeps down into the water table. So TCE will leach down in and so the communities around these factories are drinking the water and they’re being exposed to it as well. So really all over the country, just demographically affecting factory workers.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, there’s no way to even warn about it. I mean, if you’re working around a factory where we’re really seeing this as on military bases, right? I mean.

Madeline Pendley:        We are seeing it on military bases, as well, yes.

Mike Papantonio:             And what, why are we seeing it so much on military bases? We actually see military bases being shut down as super fund sites because the government can’t clean up the disaster. Talk about that.

Madeline Pendley:        Right. So this stuff gets into the environment, whether it’s through on a military base or the factories or wherever, mostly through dumping, spilling or leaks. So you can have leaks in the pipelines that seeps out into the environment, or just negligent, you know, care when they’re transporting this stuff. It dumps and contaminates the entire community.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, you know, what, is anything being done on the federal level? It seems like the EPA, as usual, has just kicked the can down the, down the road.

Madeline Pendley:        Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             And let industry tell them what industry wanted to do. EPA leadership and the white house leadership has been, almost, has been totally non-existent on this.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             Wasn’t just the Obama administration that knew about this. It goes all the way back to George Bush. I mean, Bush knew what the potential problems are and they just let the, they just let the FDA just slide on this. Just do whatever you want to do.

Madeline Pendley:        Right. We’ve known how dangerous TCE is for a very long time. And as you mentioned, some flags were raised during the Obama administration. Some bans were suggested, you know, they wanted to start enforcing protections to try and reduce the levels of TCE exposure, try to stop these facilities and these factories from using it. But unfortunately the EPA confusingly kind of blocked some of those measures. They actually, especially during the Trump administration, actually works to protect TCE so that these businesses did not have to stop using it.

Mike Papantonio:             So, okay. We’ve seen, the, the problem is that it’s, it’s not, as, as we said, you talked about the factory and we talked about the fact that it’s used on military bases, a lot for de-greasing all types of industrial size equipment. But the problem is it’s then moving from the base, it’s seeping down into the aquifer to where we have 34% of the drinking water supply in this country right now has TCE in it.

Madeline Pendley:        Exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             And people have no idea what that means to them, right?

Madeline Pendley:        Right, right. And so the problem is this could have been prevented, had, as you mentioned, these companies and these military bases done the right thing from the jump. But now the problem is the contamination is so much further spread than those factories and military bases. So one thing you can do is if you think your water supply has been contaminated, you can order tests for it. There are blood tests and breath tests that you can get yourself to see how much TCE has accumulated in your body. But otherwise, the only thing to really do at this point is to avoid those areas if possible, and get your drinking water tested.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, it’s not going to go away. I mean, it’s like, it’s, it’s not as bad as PHOS. PFOS is in the environment for a million years.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             This simply just, the environment just recharges this as it moves through the aquifer, it doesn’t really just go away. It moves into your drinking water. Utah, really interesting story there in Utah, where you had the military base was hugely affected. And then they started having cancer clusters outside the military base, all around the military base, kidney cancer, liver cancer. They had some birth defects. Talk about that. What are the places that we know are kind of hotspots for this?

Madeline Pendley:        So there are actually pretty significant pockets in almost every state. Some of the biggest offenders are, you know, Utah, Arizona, California has several. New York, New Jersey, North Carolina specifically at Camp Lejeune another military base, as well as Florida. Specifically West Virginia and Oregon. So if you know somebody who potentially has TCE contamination in West Virginia and Oregon, and has experienced some of those side effects, we talked about Parkinson’s, cancer, kidney and liver failure, you can give us at Levin Papantonio Rafferty a call and we’ll look into it.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, what’s interesting, Jan Schlichtmann used to be, he was a law, he was a partner of mine. Law, law partner, he was of counsel with this law firm and has been a friend a long time. He’s the lawyer that tried, that there’s a book it’s called A Civil Action. They made a movie out of, out of it, it’s called A Civil Action. He actually tried the first TCE case decades ago.

Madeline Pendley:        Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             He gave all the information to the government, to the EPA. Jan Schlichtmann had worked the case up from ground on and all he got from them was, we’re not interested. We don’t think this is a problem.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:            This killed people all up and down this area where he tried the case. The case was unsuccessful. But what he did is he took all of that information. It’s worth seeing. It’s called A Civil Action. It’s, it’s a great movie. But the book is suburb. And this, this is where it all started, really.

Madeline Pendley:        Right. And like you mentioned, the problem is that the EPA has enough information to do something about this. You know, and they should. I mean, if no one, if they’re not going to who else is? But they’re not interested and they’re actually taking steps to protect TCE and these facilities.

Mike Papantonio:             I hope you’ll go after them.

Madeline Pendley:        We will.

Mike Papantonio:             Thanks a lot, Maddie.

Madeline Pendley:        Thanks.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.