Top 5 Chemical Used in Dry Cleaners Service
There are a few chemicals that are commonly used in dry cleaning services. Among them are perchloroethylene (PCE), Chloroform, Carbon tetrachloride, and hexane. What are the health risks associated with these chemicals? This article discusses each one in detail. It will also discuss their environmental impacts. Whether these chemicals are appropriate for your clothes depends on how frequently they are used and where they come from.
Although the chemical PERC is widely used in the dry cleaning industry, it has been linked to many health risks, including cancer and respiratory diseases. This toxic chemical is very difficult to measure as it vaporizes quickly into the air. Dry cleaners workers are also exposed to a higher concentration of perc than consumers, which means that the EPA has tried to regulate the amount of perc in the air to reduce its potential health risks. The California Environmental Protection Agency is implementing measures to phase out perc by 2023, which will be a huge step forward in preventing cancer and other respiratory disorders.
Because perc stays on clothing for varying periods, it is easy to get absorbed by the skin. It also gets into the air during cleaning processes, releasing it into the water supply and soil of communities where dry cleaning locations are located. And because perc breaks down slowly, its contamination can travel long distances. That’s why it’s important to avoid using dry cleaning services whenever possible.
While the chemical PERC has been banned in the US dry cleaning industry, transitioning to safer alternatives has been a long and difficult process. Dry cleaning companies must carefully evaluate the health effects of switching to an alternative solvent, such as wet cleaning or a hybrid. But a change to perc will also require some changes to their machines. A transition to a safer solvent will be expensive, so dry cleaners must carefully consider the potential consequences of switching to an alternative solvent.
Unsurprisingly, tetrachloroethylene is the most commonly used solvent in dry cleaning. The chemical has been used in dry cleaning for two or three decades. Although the data shown are for tetrachloroethylene exposures only, data for other solvents can find in a monograph. Chloroform has a corrosive effect on the human body.
PERC is the most common solvent used in the United States and is a known reproductive and neurotoxic carcinogen. This chemical is so persistent that the USEPA is currently reviewing it under the Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. In addition to its toxic properties, PERC is a persistent pollutant and threatens neighboring properties. Hence, the EPA is now evaluating its use and is mandating that all dry cleaners in residential areas remove PERC-based machines. Many local programs are helping to transition these businesses to safer alternatives.
Dry cleaning uses two types of solvents: aqueous solvents and non-aqueous solvents. While aqueous solvents swell hydrophilic textile fibers, non-aqueous solvents are odorless and flammable. This solvent has quickly gained acceptance in the industry. Before introducing non-aqueous solvents, companies relied on lighter naphtha, a solvent similar to that used in the paint industry. They also used mineral turpentine and oleum spirits.
In the early 20th century, chemists discovered carbon tetrachloride’s numerous uses. One of the obvious uses was dry cleaning, a process in which water is not used to clean fabrics. It was originally done with petrol or kerosene, which are both embarrassingly flammable. But thanks to the new chemical, dry cleaning can now do without these solvents.
In the average person’s daily life, people are exposed to small amounts of carbon tetrachloride through contaminated water and building materials. It is estimated that individuals are exposed to 0.01 mg/kg daily through inhalation or contact with contaminated water. This amount is low for the general population but can be high for some populations in areas of heavy carbon tetrachloride usage.
Despite the high risks of PERC, this chemical is still widely used in dry cleaning. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates PERC exposure in US workplaces. Its enforceable exposure limits for machine operators and spotters are 100 parts per million TWA. In the Netherlands, ambient PERC concentrations were monitored in 193 dry cleaning shops before and after introducing a certification program.