Most Americans are unaware that over 85% of the more than 35,000 dry cleaners operating in the United States use a dangerous chemical called percholorethylene (perc), which poses a significant risk to our health and the environment. Perc is identified by international, national and state health and regulatory agencies as a “possible” or “probable” human carcinogen. Perc exposure is an unnecessary risk to our communities and the environment. Successful non-toxic alternatives exist and are just as effective as perc at cleaning delicate garments. By phasing out the use of perc, and phasing in proven non-toxic alternatives such as wet-cleaning or liquid carbon dioxide, federal and state governments would be adopting a pollution prevention strategy that could eliminate this national public health threat.
This report aims to: educate current and future consumers, decision-makers and other interested parties about the substantial health risks associated with the continued use of perc in the American garment care industry; provide a brief discussion of the alternatives to perc; and provide policy recommendations that will help us eliminate this unnecessary risk.
Update: After this report was released, the Coalition for Clean Air sponsored landmark legislation that helps dry cleaners in California phase out toxic chemicals and transition to safer cleaning processes. AB 998 was signed into law in fall 2003.
Brief History of Perc Use in Dry Cleaning Operations
Perc Use is an Environmental Justice Issue
Sources of Perc Exposure
Non-cancer Health Risks
Cancer Health Risks
Impacts of Perc Use on Human Health and the Environment
Liquid Carbon Dioxide
The Non-Toxic Alternatives to Perc
Alternatives that Require More Thought
What You Can do in Your Neighborhood
Appendix A – Wet Cleaner Locations in Southern California
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