Lawsuit alleges company illegally discharged cancer-causing TCE for decades

By Shannon Kelleher and Carey Gillam

A Mississippi auto parts company illegally dumped toxic waste for more than 50 years, poisoning workers and sparking a cluster of cancer cases, according to a lawsuit filed this week by a group of former employees.

The lawsuit, filed June 4 in the US District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, names EnPro Industries and multiple other corporate entities as defendants in the case, alleging they participated in illegally discharging trichloroethylene (TCE) into the environment, contaminating soil, air and groundwater, and knowingly exposing workers to the cancer-causing chemical.

“This greedy company cheated to cut costs at the expense of human health and risking countless lives,” Nick Rowley, co-founder of the national public interest law firm Trial Lawyers for Justice, said in a press release.  “The scope and scale of harms and losses caused by this wrongdoing is devastating.”

TCE is a clear, colorless liquid that is used as a degreasing solvent and dry cleaning agent, among other uses. It is considered a human carcinogen by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The chemical is also known to damage the heart, liver, kidneys, and many other organs in the human body. It can also break down into other chemicals known to cause cancer in humans, including vinyl chloride. As well, a recent study found “circumstantial” evidence linking TCE to the doubling of global Parkinson’s disease diagnoses over the past 30 years

TCE can be found in the drinking water of 19 million people, according to the Environmental Working Group.

The EPA has recently proposed banning all uses of TCE, but the chemical industry is fighting the move. The American Chemistry Council asserts TCE is valuable for many industrial uses.