Trichloroethylene has a high volume of distribution (10 l/kg). It is cleared slowly from the blood with a halflife of about 20 hours. Following acute ingestion trichloroethylene reaches its highest concentration in adipose tissue and accumulates for about 6 hours post ingestion. The trichloroethylene concentration in blood and other tissues (particularly nervous tissue) depends on slow elimination from adipose tissue. Adipose tissue has concentrations of trichloroethylene 100 times higher than in blood.

The solubility coefficient of trichloroethylene vapour for fat is much higher than for other tissues. In experimental animals, the tissue/blood partition coefficient was about 70 for fat and 1-3 for most other tissues. This high solubility of trichloroethylene in fat compared with blood was confirmed with fat and blood from humans (Sato et al., 1977).

The concentration of trichloroethylene in nervous tissue is around twice that of blood but 50 times lower than that in adipose tissue, indicating that the solvent does not accumulate in nervous tissue. However, the high blood flow to the CNS increases the concentration of trichloroethylene in nervous tissue, but also means that trichloroethylene is cleared from the CNS once absorption ceases. Adipose tissue slowly releases solvent to the blood where the concentration decreases with a half-life similar to that of adipose tissue.

Trichloroethylene blood concentrations greater than 1,500 |g/l are associated with deep coma (Perbellini et al., 1991).

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