About This Project


Kaufman Hall was originally the Reeves-Hoffman crystal factory and was purchased by Dickinson College in 2003.  In its years as a crystal factory, many hazardous chemicals were used, and contamination from these chemicals still persists in the area.  In August of 2005, the college hired Cocciardi and Associates, Inc. consulting firm to perform tests regarding the level of contamination in Kaufman.  They identified various chemicals of concern such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, and trichloroethylene (TCE) (Treichler, 2006).  The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) both have legal standards for cancer risks, which must be below 10 in 1,000,000 and 100 in 1,000,000 respectively (Shoemaker, 2009).  Cocciardi and Dickinson College decided to place even more stringent standards and make the target, or "walk-away" level, 1 in 1,000,000 (Shoemaker, 2009).  After further testing, it was found that the PCB and naphthalene levels were sufficiently below the walk-away standard (Treichler, 2006).  However, the TCE levels in the building did not meet the college’s standards.  As a result, monitoring of TCE levels has continued and several measures have been taken in an effort to lower the concentration of TCE in the Kaufman building, thereby attempting to reduce the cancer risk to less than one in one million (Shoemaker, 2009).  For more information on the general history of Kaufman Hall, please visit the site on History of Kaufman, created by Dickinson College Senior Seminar students.


This website is the product of my research for Candie Wilderman’s Senior Seminar 2009.  It is meant to serve as a basis for the condition of Kaufman Hall prior to its planned renovations and will be updated to include any future sampling events as well as information on its condition after the renovations are completed.  Our class has focused on all different aspects of the building that can, in some way, be tied together.  My main goal in creating this website was to not only learn about the TCE situation, but to also put the data in a format that would be easily accessible and understood by the public, especially concerned building occupants.  I hope to give you an understanding of what TCE is, what it is used for, and the level of risk that comes from being exposed to it.  I have also provided the data from air monitoring since 2006, groundwater data from 2002, and past Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data on industrial air emissions from when the building was used as a factory.  Based on the air quality data, I will also explain how the cancer risk is calculated and what your cancer risk is if you work or study in the building. 


What is TCE?


Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a clear, non-flammable liquid that is typically used by industrial companies as a degreasing agent, which accounts for 80 percent of its overall uses (Figure 1) (EPA, 2009d).  It has also been used for paint stripping and can be found in rug cleaners and spot removers.  While this chemical can be found in some common household items, it is also found in over one third of hazardous waste sites that are on the United States Environmental Protections Agency’s (US EPA) national priorities list (NPL) (EPA, 2009d).  The NPL is part of the Superfund cleanup process, which consists of assessing possible contaminated sites, placing them on the NPL and establishing appropriate cleanup plans (EPA, 2009d).  The purpose of the NPL is to list all of the priority sites among known or threatened releases of hazardous wastes in the United States (EPA, 2009d).  From here, the EPA can determine which sites need further investigation, immediate cleanup or community involvement (EPA, 2009d).





Figure 1

The skeletal structure, molecular model, and chemical formula of trichloroethylene (Wikipedia, 2009)






Should I be concerned about TCE?


There has been much dispute over the danger of TCE and whether or not it should be classified as a carcinogen.  One of the common concerns is that TCE does not degrade in the soil under anaerobic conditions, which allows it to travel through the soil and leach into groundwater.  It is estimated that 34% of the nation’s drinking water is contaminated with TCE (Campos-Outcalt, 1992).  The federal standard for TCE levels occurring in drinking water is 5 ppb (Campos-Outcalt, 1992).  There are certain levels of recommended limits of exposure that are established for different amounts of exposure time, as shown in Table 1. (Campos-Outcalt, 1992)



Type of Exposure

Recommended limits of exposure

Short term exposure limit (STEL)

Set by OSHA; a time-weighted average that workers can be exposed to for 15 minutes, four times a day with one hour between exposures

200 ppm

Permissible exposure limit (PEL)

Set by OSHA; a time-weighted average that workers can be exposed to for an eight-hour day

50 ppm

Drinking water quality criteria

(EPA, 2006)

5 ppb

Table 1. Recommended exposure limits for TCE (Campus-Outcalt, 1992).


TCE generally has a low standard for exposure level because it can be easily absorbed orally or by inhalation and passes through the bloodstream to major organs such as the brain, liver and kidneys and is deposited into the fat cells (Campos-Outcalt, 1992; Scorecard, 2005).  TCE is also capable of crossing into fetal tissues (Campos-Outcalt, 1992).  When exposed to levels higher than the STEL, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, headache, dizziness, decreased psychomotor function and confusion are often experienced (Campos-Outcalt, 1992; Department of Health Services, 1997).  When exposed to even higher levels, respiratory failure, hepatotoxicity, coma and death may occur (Campos-Outcalt, 1992).  However, in various studies, TCE was not found to increase the rate of birth defects in humans or cause heart defects in animals that were exposed to environmental and occupational TCE levels. (Campos-Outcalt, 1992)

Many studies have found that of all the side effects possible from exposure to TCE, the development of kidney tumors in rats may be the most indicative of human health hazards.  One particular case study from 2004 compared 70 workers in electronic and related industries whose only exposure to organic solvents was TCE with 54 age matched hospital and administrative staff with no known history of TCE exposure (Green et al., 2004).   All of the subjects also met the following criteria: no past history of renal disease, hypertension or diabetes; no evidence of haematuria; systolic blood pressure less than 140 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure below 90 mm Hg; non-smoker; not pregnant; and not on any medication such as antibiotics or analgesics for the two weeks prior to examination. On average the age of all subjects was within the third decade of life.  

            Exposed workers were exposed for a wide range of less than 1 year to 20 years.  All 70 of the subjects showed evidence of exposure based on the presence of trichloroacetic acid in urine which ranged from 1-505 mg/l.  Urinary trichloroacetic acid levels are known to correlate with exposure as a concentration of 100 mg/l equates to a TRI exposure of 50 ppm over several shifts. Only 10 individuals in the exposed group were exposed to levels higher than 50 ppm.  Another parameter studied was renal toxicity markers.  They found evidence of increases in formate, methylmalonate, and glutation S-transferase a activity.  Although they were not out of the control range, the changes in levels were obviously dose dependent making it likely that kidney damage could occur at exposure concentration higher than 250 ppm (Green et al., 2004).  

Even though this study shows that high levels of TCE are necessary to produce kidney damage, TCE is ultimately a recognized carcinogen and is suspected of being a toxicant to cardiovascular or blood systems, endocrine, gastrointestinal, liver, kidney, reproductive, and respiratory systems. In addition it is believed to be toxic in developmental stages.  It is also ranked in the worst 10% of compounds that are hazardous to ecosystems and human health (Environmental Defense Fund, 2005). 


Why is TCE in the Kaufman building, and how much is there?


The Reeves-Hoffman company moved into the building on the corner of North and Cherry in 1948 (Fanus, 1983).  In 1960, they became a division of the Dynamics Corporation of America and were one of the original developers of crystals employed in things such as quartz watches and radio equipment (Fanus, 1983).  If you are interested in further information on the history of crystal use in the Kaufman building, please visit ­­­the student site on The History of Kaufman.

TCE was used in the Kaufman building for the manufacturing of transformers beginning in 1948 and later for the manufacturing of transistors and quartz radio frequency crystals (Shoemaker, 2009).  There are environmental records beginning in 1981 which show that the facility used a significant amount of chlorinated solvents in these processes (Shoemaker, 2009).  Based on those data, it can be interpreted that such use dates back even further to the 1960’s and even 1940’s.  However, those dates represent an unregulated timeframe where documentation of the use, storage, and disposal practices of such chemicals was not required (Shoemaker, 2009). 

Throughout 2006, remedial actions took place in an attempt to clean up the TCE around the Kaufman area, primarily in the groundwater. Along with TCE, polychlorinated biphenyls, chlorinated vapors and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons are other compounds that have raised concern due to their presence in the area (Cocciardi, 2008).  Currently the levels do not meet the safety standards set by Dickinson College, although they do meet standards set by the DEP and EPA.  More information on the current trends in TCE concentrations can be found in the Air Monitoring section of the Data and Analysis page.