When you drop off your clothes and receive your ticket at your local dry cleaners, do you ever wonder how your clothes get clean? Do you imagine your clothes being thrown in a huge washer and dryer, then ironed neatly, and voilà, your clothes magically appear underneath a crisp plastic cover?
You might be surprised to know that dry cleaning is a process that cleans clothes with a liquid solvent, and generally without water. Although this solvent does the job of cleaning the harshest stains out of the most delicate linens, this solvent contains an active ingredient that actually does more harm than good.
Perchloroethylene or “PERC” is a chemical solvent that accounts for 80 to 85 percent of all dry cleaning fluid used in the dry cleaning industry and is listed as a Group 2A carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This solution is a clear, colorless liquid that has a sweet odor and evaporates quickly. PERC is an effective solvent that removes stains from all common types of fabrics, and because of its effective cleaning results, it is used by countless businesses throughout the dry cleaning and textile industries, including, most likely, the dry cleaner where you currently take your clothes.
The risk of exposure to PERC poses a real threat to human health and the overall environment. Contact with this chemical may occur through skin absorption, or breathing of the vapors or contact with the eyes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, breathing PERC for short periods of time can adversely affect the human nervous system. This chemical can harm the brain, damage the liver and kidneys, and is believed to be a cause of cancer.
According to Cancer.org, some studies of people exposed to PERC at work (dry cleaning workers, workers at a chemical company, and workers in aircraft maintenance) found more cases than expected of certain cancers, including cancers of the esophagus, kidney, cervix, and bladder, as well as lymphomas. These harsh effects are not just limited to people who work in dry-cleaning plants and businesses. Exposure can occur simply by bringing clothes cleaned with this chemical into your home. If you’ve had any garments dry cleaned lately, this toxic substance may be absorbed through your skin.
PERC can also cross the placenta and be found in breast milk. This is very alarming because it can harm the fetus and newborns through maternal exposure. Once PERC is in the body it can be stored in fat tissue.
In addition to the threat to your health, exposure to PERC is just as dangerous, if not more so, to the environment. The air, water and ground can easily become contaminated by PERC during the cleaning, and waste disposal stages of dry cleaning. PERC run-off has been shown to be toxic to plants, as well as to aquatic animals, with toxins stored in the animals’ fatty tissues, ultimately causing kidney and liver cancer. Even worse, perhaps, is that the greens or fish you eat may have come into contact with this dangerous substance.
The Eco Laundry Company does not take this issue lightly. In fact, we are tackling this controversial subject head-on by protecting our customers and the planet from PERC by utilizing ‘effective microorganism’ technology, which makes dry cleaning completely safe by neutralizing any chemicals involved in the process.
Our mission is to lead by example, educate our customers about sustainable business practices and pave the way for a cleaner more conscious industry.