Perchloroethylene (Perc or PCE) is a highly toxic chemical used by the vast majority of dry cleaners. PCE is associated with a number of adverse health impacts including cancer, liver and kidney damage, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity and developmental toxicity.
Two safer alternatives to PCE are available. Professional Wet Cleaning is a viable, cost-effective, safer substitute capable of successfully cleaning the full-range of garments currently labeled 'Dry Clean' or 'Dry Clean Only'. CO2 Dry Cleaning, while also non-toxic, is less common due to the high start-up cost for small businesses.
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If your local cleaner doesn't offer Professional Wet Cleaning, here is a 'FAQ Fact Sheet' for you to download and give to them.
REGULATION OF PERCHLOROETHYLENE
As a consequence of it's toxicity, PCE has become highly regulated as a pollutant to the air, land, water, and workplace. This regulation spurred interest in alternatives. While some alternatives (water-based professional wet cleaning and CO2) represent important safer substitutes, others (petroleum, siloxane, and n propyl bromide) pose their own set of hazards. Petroleum emits volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) – which cause smog and are greenhouse gases: the siloxane solvent (decamethylpentacyclosiloxane) has tested positive as a tumor initiator and therefore may be identified as a potential carcinogen. Both solvents generate hazardous waste and are combustible. N-propyl bromide is a reproductive and respiratory toxicant.
SUSTAINABLE GARMENT CARE DEMONSTRATION PROJECT
Since 1998, Dr. Peter Sinsheimer, STPP’s Executive Director, has spearheaded the Environmental Garment Care Demonstration Project to evaluate and promote viable environmentally-benign alternatives. The Demonstration Project started in the Los Angeles region, resulting in the first scientific evaluation confirming wet cleaning as a viable substitute for PCE drycleaning. Read the Report Here. The Project, which also showcases CO2, has expanded to cover all of California. In addition, the Project initiated demonstration projects in other states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.
Establishing the viability of environmentally-benign substitutes has resulted in significant policy change. In 2002, PCE dry cleaning was phased out in the greater Los Angeles region – a first for a government agency. California soon followed suit. In both cases, establishing the viability of professional wet cleaning played a decisive role. In 2003, California created an incentive for PCE dry cleaners switching to environmentally-benign alternatives (wet cleaning and CO2) funded by a fee on PCE.
Read the latest news in Garment Care.
For more information about the Garment Care project, contact Dr. Peter Sinsheimer or 310.794.1408