True Quality CleaningStraight talk about caring for fine garments & household textiles from an expert who calls it like it is. In plain English.

It's official: the dry cleaning solvent commonly known as perc is "likely human carcinogen"

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perc drum truck with barrels


In February 2012, after almost 25 years of study, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") has finally classified perchloroethylene, aka perc or PCE, as a "likely human carcinogen."

By way of background, perc, a chlorinated solvent, is the most common drycleaning solvent in use today. Used by approximately 90% of the 26,000 cleaners in the USA, perc (brand name: Dowper from Dow Chemical and PerSec by Occidental Chemical) is a relatively aggressive solvent valued by cleaners for its grease-cutting properties.

In recent years, perc has been attacked by governmental agencies, scientific bodies and environmentalists as a likely human carcinogen as well as a ground water and air pollutant. Perc has been scheduled for phase out in California by the year 2023. By contrast, advocates for perc have argued that perc, used in accordance with existing environmental laws and regulations, is "perfectly safe".

The debate over perc has been on-going and contentious on both sides of the debate.

That 25 year old debate is, now, finally over.

While the EPA does not believe that wearing clothing dry cleaned in perc poses an "immediate health risk to humans", their assessment provides, for the first time, estimates for both cancer and non-cancer effects associated with exposure to perc over a lifetime.

For some states, however, the EPA's standards for exposure to perc are still too high. California, for example, has determined that perc is far more hazardous to humans and to the environment than the EPA's exposure limits suggest.

The EPA's final assessment has sent both the manufacturers of perc as well as dry cleaners who use perc scampering to put their best spin on the matter.

The Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, which represents companies that make perc, says that it is "pleased that the EPA has completed the review and removed some of the uncertainties related to evaluating human health exposures to the solvent."

Really? That's like a criminal defense attorney, whose client had been convicted of a triple murder, welcoming a verdict of death on the basis that the verdict removes some of the future uncertainties for his client.

Dry cleaners are also looking to put the brightest shade of lipstick on their pig.

One Scottsdale, Arizona dry cleaner, for example, recently blogged that "we are aware of the environmental concerns (about perc) and in an attempt to play our part in being eco-friendly, we are currently researching other alternatives available that will deliver the same results." (emphasis added)

But in a candid admission that they have no real intent to stop using perc, they add that "we are also considering dedicated machines and better waste handling technology that will make perc safe to use." (emphasis added)

At RAVE FabriCARE, we're not "researching other alternatives" to perc. Fact is, we recognized the writing on the wall ELEVEN YEARS AGO.

In July 2001, we converted our entire dry cleaning operation from toxic, environmentally hazardous, dye-stripping perc to siloxane, a dry cleaning fluid used by fewer than 3% of all cleaners (brand name: Green Earth from General Electric Silicones, Dow Corning Silicones and Shin Etsu Silicones).

Why siloxane?

Siloxane is completely odorless and dermatologically friendly. You can even wash your face and hands in it.

It's extremely gentle. So gentle, in fact, that it's been used for decades as a base ingredient in many personal care products you drip into your eye and rub into your skin on a daily basis. Such as shampoos, antiperspirants, deodorants and moisturizing creams.

It's also chemically inert. Which means that siloxane won't "bleed" or "fade" your colors.

From an environmental point of view, siloxane is non-toxic. It's much more than just environmentally friendly. It's biodegradable. And it's environmentally benign. In the event of a major spill, siloxane degrades in the environment in a few days into silica and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide.

Contrast this to perc. In the event of a major spill, a cleaner using siloxane will need a bucket and a mop. In the event of a major spill, a cleaner using perc will need to summon the Hazardous Materials Unit of your local fire department.

From a health point of view, first aid measures for siloxane state that no action is required when siloxane comes into contact with skin or is inhaled or ingested (that's right, you can eat and digest siloxane and you did so when you last ate french fries at McDonalds). This differs markedly from the first aid measures for perc (wash, flush, consult a physician).

So my final question is quite simple: Given the EPA's determination that perc is a "likely human carcinogen" and California's prior determination that perc is more hazardous than the EPA suggests, why would you ever choose to clean in perc?

How can I help you?

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