Contemporary dry cleaning methods are not new. The use of non-water-based solutions to remove dirt and soot goes back as far as 1855. At that time, dry cleaners’ biggest concern was the flammability of the petroleum-based solvents used to clean textiles. But after WWI, dry cleaners switched to chlorinated versions that were less flammable and more effective. By the mid-1930’s, the dry cleaning industry adopted Perc (Perchloroethylene, also know as Tetrachloroethylene) as their cleaning solvent of choice. Although there are a small percentage of businesses that offer Green alternatives, Perc remains the primary chemical in the dry cleaning process as it has superior cleansing capabilities yet is nonflammable and mild on most fabrics. Unfortunately, the US government deems it a possible carcinogen.
Various epidemiological studies have linked Perc to cancer in humans and proven it to be moderately toxic. Contact with Perc has, in some instances, led to neurological damage, headache and irritation to eyes, nose and throat in persons routinely exposed to the chemical. For this reason, it is classified as an indoor pollutant – so much so, that disposal of it is considered hazardous waste. Perchloroethylene air pollution control is vitally important.
There are two primary sources of Perc air emissions in the dry cleaning industry. The first takes place during the transfer of clothing going from washer to dryer. The second occurs in the venting of exhaust into the air (Perc concentrations in outside air are also a health concern to residents and workers who are in close proximity).
As a result of numerous environmental studies, national emission standards were set. The 1993 Air Toxic Standards were established to regulate and control Perc emissions and in 2006, the EPA updated their regulations to further strengthen those emission standards. Individual states, such as New York, have gone beyond what the EPA suggests and have enacted regulations that are more stringent.
Business owners and workers should take heart; modern dry cleaning equipment emissions result in lower exposures than ever before. But ensuring workplace safety and EPA regulatory compliance takes vigilance. At AIRSInc, we are experts in creating and maintaining clean indoor air. We possess a depth of industry knowledge and can evaluate your air filtration needs and recommend a course of action using our stellar implementation products. Contact us at Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc. to speak to one of our air quality specialists.