Health and Wellness

Health and Wellness

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National Public Health Week Trichloroethylene – TCE

Chicago Heights neighborhood of Overland


Statement from the DOH:

In December of 2013, the Saint Louis County Department of Health received a report from the Environmental Protection Agency that detailed a serious environmental problem in the Chicago Heights neighborhood of Overland. That problem is the presence of a chemical called trichloroethylene – or TCE for short. The report found that elevated levels of TCE exist in many places in the Chicago Heights neighborhood requiring the immediate action of the public health community.


Over the next several weeks, the Saint Louis County Department of Health will be offering free health screenings to the residents of the Chicago Heights neighborhood to determine the extent of exposure to TCE. This will include not only current residents of the community, but past residents as well.


The information being collected through these screenings is ONLY FOR USE BY THE INDIVIDUALS BEING SCREENED. No personal health information will be shared with anyone other than the individuals being screened. If elevated levels of TCE are found in any individual, that person will be referred to a physician for further examination and/or treatment (if necessary).


For more information about TCE or the health screenings being offered by the Saint Louis County Department of Health, please call (314) 615-0510.

FAQ’s for interested parties:

What is TCE?


TCE is trichloroethylene. It is a non-flammable, colorless liquid. It was used as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts and can also be found in adhesives, paint removers, and spot removers.


Why is there TCE in Chicago Heights?


At one time, a company that used to be located in the Chicago Heights area used TCE as part of their operations. Some of the TCE used at that time leaked into the groundwater in the area, causing the contamination.


How would I be exposed to TCE in Chicago Heights?


TCE is able to evaporate. After the groundwater underneath the Chicago Heights area was contaminated with TCE, it began to evaporate, entering homes through the basement. If you live in the Chicago Heights neighborhood, it is possible that you have been exposed to TCE by breathing air containing evaporated TCE.


Why is there a concern about TCE now?


In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted tests in the Chicago Heights neighborhood to determine the level of TCE contamination. The report of those tests was given to the Saint Louis County Department of Health in December 2013. It shows elevated levels of TCE in the area.


What is the Saint Louis County Department of Health doing about the situation?


The Saint Louis County Department of Health will be offering free health screenings to all residents of the Chicago Heights neighborhood – both past and present. The screenings will determine whether or not a person has been exposed to TCE. All information collected WILL ONLY BE SHARED WITH THE INDIVIDUALS TESTED. Any person with elevated TCE levels will be referred to a physician for treatment (if necessary).


How can TCE affect my health or the health of my children?


It depends on the amount a person is exposed to and over how long a period of time. Other things that have to be considered are age, body size, and other existing health issues. If enough exposure to TCE occurs, studies have found the following possible links:


  • Heart defects in fetuses if the mother is exposed to TCE during pregnancy
  • Auto-immune disorders
  • Kidney damage
  • Kidney cancer, liver cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

  • However, it is important to remember that these problems only develop if enough exposure occurs. That is why the Saint Louis County Department of Health is conducting the free health screenings for residents.


    Where can I find more information?


    For more information about TCE or the health screenings being offered by the Saint Louis County Department of Health, please call (314) 615-0510.