There’s any number of things that used to be common “remedies” for various ailments that leave us recoiling in horror because of what we know now that we didn’t know then. 

So here’s what we know now and didn’t know back then about trichloroethylene, or TCE, the chemical that has polluted a groundwater plume extending from 29th and Grove south to Murdock and I-135.

  1. TCE does not occur naturally. It was first synthesized in the 1860s and was patented in 1906. It is a common degreaser, solvent, paint remover and an ingredient in many household cleaning products.
  2. In the 1940s, TCE was used medically as an inhalable anesthetic and analgesic in surgical settings and as a treatment for migraines. It was believed to be safer than chloroform or ether.
  3. In the 1950s and 60s, TCE was routinely administered to women in labor for the relief of childbirth pain. It was not banned for that use until 1977 when laboratory studies indicated it caused cancer in mice.
  4. TCE was used by the food industry to produce decaffeinated coffee, vegetable oils and spice extracts. It was banned for food industry use in 1977.
  5. The largest TCE plume in the world is in the small town of Mancelona, Michigan. The plume spans six miles and expands approximately 300 feet a year. An estimated 13 trillion gallons of groundwater in the area are contaminated with TCE.

P.J. Griekspoor is a semi-retired veteran journalist with 55 years experience in writing and editing in Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wichita.  She spent 18 years at the Wichita Eagle...