Perc o’ Late
EPA will require residential dry cleaners to phase out toxic solvent
Dry cleaners in residential buildings must phase out use of the toxic solvent perchloroethylene by 2020, under new U.S. EPA regulations. About 28,000 dry cleaners use perc, but only 1,300 of them will be affected by the new ruling. As old machines wear out, dry cleaners must replace them with non-perc machines. Health risks to nearby residents may be “significantly higher than EPA considers acceptable in some buildings until the phaseout … is complete,” according to the fact sheet accompanying the rules. But only for 14 more years! The EPA rules also require nonresidential dry cleaners to install devices to detect solvent leaks and take steps to reduce emissions. Perc, an air pollutant, has been linked to cancer and neurological damage. One study of people living above a dry cleaner in New York found elevated levels of perc in their blood, urine, and breast milk, as well as vision impairment.