It’s time to get toxic chemicals out of dry cleaning

When perchloroethylene (PERC) was introduced to the dry cleaning industry in the 1930s, it must have seemed like a miracle solvent. Unfortunately, very few are aware of the health risks associated with a lifetime of using a hazardous chlorinated solvent.

When perchloroethylene (PERC) was introduced to the dry cleaning industry in the 1930s, it must have seemed like a miracle solvent.

It cleans clothes well and – most importantly – it is nonflammable. This is in contrast to the previous solvents, like Stoddard solvent, gasoline, turpentine, and even benzene. Because the use of these flammable solvents resulted in catastrophic fires and explosions, government regulations forced dry cleaners to move out of highly populated areas. With the advent of PERC, dry cleaners could move back to population centers, where the customers were.

The dry cleaning industry provided a unique opportunity for a whole generation of immigrants. A 2011 survey indicated that in King County, Washington, for instance, more than 80% of dry cleaning business owners emigrated from South Korea. For many of these immigrants, dry cleaning was the ideal business. They readily grasped the complexity of the dry cleaning process and were able to build successful businesses through hard work.

Unfortunately, very few are aware of the health risks associated with a lifetime of using a hazardous chlorinated solvent.

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Glenforest News


WORCESTER – School officials are seeking information about whether a dry cleaning business recently punished by the state Department of Environmental Protection for various violations might have created a contamination risk at the next-door Gates Lane School of International Studies.

White & Brite Cleaners, located yards away from the elementary school at 1256 Main St., was fined nearly $84,000 by the state agency last month for committing air quality, hazardous waste and waste site cleanup infractions, some of which also impacted a house on the property, according to the DEP.

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Officials say the drinking water in a West Virginia community along the Ohio River contains a harmful chemical widely used by dry cleaners.

State Bureau for Public Health spokeswoman Allison Adler said in an email Wednesday tetrachloroethylene has been detected in Paden City’s water system since around 2010 at levels below maximum allowable standards. She says the water system was assessed a violation notice in December.

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Deadly solvent still in use despite risks

CLEVELAND — John Sammon had a vision for relocating his company

"I thought it was a fantastic building right here in Fairview," he recalled.

What his eyes didn’t see under Lorain Road nixed his property deal, he said. It also got him wondering.

"It's one of those things where it makes you concerned about what you don't know about,” he said.

Soil tests conducted in anticipation of Sammon’s purchase detected traces of a cancer-causing chemical used in dry cleaning. And located right next door: a dry cleaner.

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