Clothes with the dry clean only tag: a turn-off?
February 11, 2012
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently posted their final health assessment for tetrachloroethylene, also know as perchlorethylene or perc to their Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database. The assessment provides estimates for both cancer and non-cancer effects associated with exposure to perc over a lifetime. It replaces an IRIS assessment made in 1988 for perc that did not consider a hazard characterization for cancer effects.

While the EPA says they do not believe that wearing clothes dry cleaned with perc will result in exposures which "pose a risk of concern," they still characterize perc as a "likely human carcinogen," confirming longstanding scientific understanding and research. In addition to being a chemical solvent widely used in the dry cleaning industry, perc is also used in the cleaning of metal mechaniery and in the manufacturing of some consumer products and other chemicals.

Significant actions taken by the EPA to reduce exposure to perc include adding requirements to the clean air standards already in place for dry cleaners that use the chemical. By December 21, 2020 the EPA will require that dry cleaners phase out the use of perc in residential buildings. The EPA also set limits for the amount of perc allowed in drinking water. In light of the IRIS assessment, levels for cleaning up perc at Superfund sites throughout the country also will be updated.

“The perc health assessment released today will provide valuable information to help protect people and communities from exposure to perc in soil, water and air,” said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This assessment emphasizes the value of the IRIS database in providing strong science to support government officials as they make decisions to protect the health of the American people.”

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