When you drive home after picking up your clothes from the dry cleaners do you sometimes notice a faint chemical smell on the clothes? More than likely your garments were cleaned with dangerous chemicals that could harm the workers, the environment and the air in your home.
Cleaning fluids were mostly petroleum-based up until World War II but they would sometimes explode if they got too hot, and could cause dizziness or neurological problems. PERC, perchloroethylene, arrived on the scene and was thought to save the day. You couldn’t smell it, it was nonflammable, and was the most reliable solvent for removing dirt. However, PERC, a synthetic, volatile organic compound, happens to pose a health risk to humans as well and is a threat to the environment. According to Greenpeace, 70% of PERC winds up in the air or in ground water. The EPA says that it is during the cleaning, purification, and waste disposal phases of dry cleaning that these hazardous toxins can get into our air, water, and soil.
PERC is used by 3 out of 4 dry cleaners nationwide. California has banned the entire state from its use. Massachusetts, New York and Texas are also considering a ban.
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