What is PERC?
PERC, also known as tetrachloroethene, or perchloroethylene (“perc” or “PERC”), is a colorless liquid typically used as a cleaning solution by dry cleaners. While it’s a great cleaning agent, its numerous health side effects make PERC a horrible choice for use in dry cleaning.
How Can I Be Exposed to PERC?
Nearly 85% of dry cleaners in the United States use PERC as their cleaning agent, but a rise in awareness has made dry cleaners begin the switch to safer and environmentally-friendly alternatives.The harmful side effects of PERC have been documented going back decades. In 1990, the federal Clean Air Act required all dry cleaners to limit their PERC emissions, but not eliminate them. Starting back in 2007, the California Air Resources Board adopted the Airborne Toxic Control Measure to phase out all dry cleaners’ use of PERC by 2023. While PERC gets its street cred from the dry cleaning industry, it’s also used to degrease auto parts and appears in products like paint strippers, adhesives, wood cleaners, and shoe polish.
In fact, PERC solvent is classified as a hazardous air contaminant by the EPA, and it’s also known to “likely to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program. It’s been classified as a carcinogen due to limited evidence in the correlation of PERC exposure and esophageal cancer, cervical cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The Nasty Health-Related Side Effects of PERC Usage
According to Tox Town, PERC is harmful even in small doses. Low levels of PERC can leave you experiencing feelings of dizziness, inebriation, sleepiness, and irritated eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and respiratory tract. High levels of PERC can affect your central nervous system and ultimately cause unconsciousness or death. If you’re pregnant, exposure to PERC can even harm the development of the baby.
Is PERC Bad for the Environment?
PERC is not only bad for you, it’s also bad for the environment. Back in the 1990’s, the emerging studies being done on perc usage caused dry cleaners to become the one type of tenant that commercial landlords hated to deal with. If not properly handled, PERC can penetrate through nearly any surface, including concrete. Dry cleaners are required by federal law to handle PERC as a hazardous waste, and if mishandled, the solvent can cause numerous. Once it starts penetrating through surfaces, it quickly sinks as fast and low as it can due to gravity flow. All of this results in groundwater contamination and increased health problems for those in the local area.
How Can I Be Sure My Dry Cleaner is PERC-free?
If your dry cleaner is a PERC-free operator, they will typically state so on their website. Since a large majority of dry cleaners in the States still use PERC, making sure you ask prior to dropping your clothes off is the best option you have. You can even use Google to your advantage by searching for “green dry cleaners” or “PERC-free dry cleaner” in your city.
Press Provides PERC-free Dry Cleaning Near You
At Press, we work with PERC-free dry cleaning providers in your local area. Visit our cities page to find out if we offer dry cleaning and laundry services in your area.