Most mutagenicity tests on tetrachloroethylene have been negative (reviewed in ECETOC, 1990; BUA, 1996; ATSDR, 1997). However, tests have shown that tetrachloroethylene and trichlorovinylglutathione (the gluthathione conjugate of tetrachloroethylene) are mutagenic under conditions of reductive metabolism and only in the presence of a metabolic activating system from the rat kidney including glutathione, glutathione-s-transferase, y-glutamyl-transpeptidase and ß-lyase (Vamvakas et al., 1989). The latter two enzymes occur particularly in the kidney and so tetrachloroethylene may have a mutagenic effect in that organ (BUA, 1996).

A study of dry cleaners exposed to tetrachloroethylene (geometric mean 10 ppm) and chemical workers exposed to tetrachloroethylene (17 ppm) and trichloroethylene (8 ppm), found no increase in the rates of sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs) when comparing exposed smokers with control smokers and exposed non-smokers with control non-smokers. However, in males, comparison of smokers exposed to either tetrachloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene with exposed non-smokers did show a significant increase in SCEs. This was postulated to be due to a synergistic effect between smoking and solvent exposure (Seiji et al., 1990).

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