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News2007July › Dry Cleaning: Is cancer a perc of the job? › July 2007

Dry Cleaning: Is cancer a perc of the job?

Most dry cleaners use a nasty, noxious chemical called Perc (perchloroethylene) in order to clean your clothes

Most dry cleaners use a nasty, noxious chemical called Perc (perchloroethylene) in order to clean your clothes. If you're not sure yours does, just stand in the shop for a few minutes and inhale - if it's a horrid, toxic and mind-numbing smell, that's perc.

It doesn't just smell awful. It's pretty bad for you and your health, too (and the staff's, come to that).

Although it's been the most popular cleaning agent for dry cleaners for the past 50 years, it's classified as a carcinogen by America's Environmental Protection Agency. It's reckoned that one out of 6,700 people wearing freshly dry-cleaned clothes once a week will develop cancer as a direct result of inhaling the Perc.

It can also contaminate the water supply if it's poured down drains, it's easily inhaled and can enter the bloodstream and is stored in fat, liver and brain tissue, and it can also be absorbed through the skin.

So what do you do? Find a dry cleaner that doesn't use Perc (and cleaning agents such as PCE, perchlor, perclene, tetrachloroethylene or perchloroethylene are Perc by another name).

The best option is a dry cleaner that uses CO2 liquid carbon dioxide, which produces even better results than Perc - and you don't get cancer. Alternatively, find a dry cleaner that uses wet-cleaning techniques.

(Source: Townsend Letter, July 2007; 54-56).

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