The dry cleaning industry has undergone many changes in regard to pollution concerns. Most of which concerns the way the chemical solvents are disposed of and contained. The most prominent dry cleaning solvent is Tetrachloroethylene, also known as “Perc”. It is classified by the EPA as a carcinogenic, cancer causing toxin. Other health risks associated with Perc exposure are liver and kidney damage, neurological, and skin irritation. It can enter the body via respiratory and dermal systems. This means it is required to be handled as hazardous waste.
Federal Governing Bodies
(Environmental Protection Agency)
(Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Environmental concerns include evaporation of solvent from improper storage and vapor emissions from the cleaning machinery. In fact the Clean Air Act of 1963 requires the EPA to identify a minimum of 30 highly toxic emissions and regulate their production. Perc was among the first of these chemicals to be listed.
In order to ensure the safest industry emissions standards the EPA ensures industrial producers utilize “maximum achievable control technologies”, or MACT standards. Smaller producers must follow “generally available control technologies”, GACT standards. These chemicals are also introduced to the environment via contaminated soil and groundwater from improper disposal and spills. In the case of ground contamination remediation clean up weather biological or chemical must take place. Perc is partially degraded with trichloroethylene, dichloroethene, and vinyl chloride. Once these chemicals are used to treat the Perc spill water is added to fully degrade it into ethene and hydrogen chloride.