Commentary: Do Away With Dry Cleaning Chemical
The California Air Resources board will soon decide how to better regulate a toxic air contaminant used by the dry cleaning industry. Ginger Rutland says they should phase it out fast.
Friday, May 19, 2006
The dry cleaning solvent is called Perchloroethylene or perc for short. It’s nasty stuff. For those exposed at high levels it can cause cancer. It can also irritate skin, eyes, nose, mouth, throat and lungs. It causes headaches, dizziness, nausea, fluid build up in the lungs, damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, liver and reproductive systems.
Given its danger, perc has been regulated for years and now the state air board is set to vote on a proposal for yet more stringent controls. One rule would ban new dry cleaners using perc from setting up for business within 300 feet of a residential neighborhood, including schools and day care centers. That’s not good enough. The buffer does nothing to protect owners and workers exposed to perc for hours every day.
If perc is so dangerous workers shouldn’t be exposed either.
State regulators should do what the South Coast Air regulators did in 2002 –give the industry 15 years to phase out the use of perc altogether and do it now. There are safer ways to clean clothes.