Potential Health Risks from Dry Cleaning Compounds - at Home or Work

Drycleaning Environmental and Health Issues and Resources for Owners and Operators of Dry Cleaning Facilities

For the general public:

This page is aimed at owners and operators of dry cleaners, but if you are concerned about the danger of perchloroethylene from dry cleaning to your health, click here for another page that answers many of the common questions about hazards from having clothes dry cleaned or working at a dry cleaners. 

For owners and operators of dry cleaning equipment:

It is important for you to know the hazards associated with the use of liquid perchloroethylene (perc), and the kinds and sources of perc wastes that are produced by the dry cleaning process. Although perc is the most common cleaning solvent used in the dry cleaning industry, it is also suspected of causing cancer and has been found to be moderately toxic to people. It is classified as a pollutant in both air and water regulations. Its disposal is regulated as a hazardous waste.

Air Emissions

The two largest potential sources of air emissions from the dry cleaning industry are the release of perc vapors into the atmosphere during transfer of clothes from the washer to the dryer and the venting of the dryer exhaust airstream. The concentrations of perc in the outside air is of concern to neighbors of dry cleaners! To eliminate these sources of air pollution, EPA regulations are phasing out the use of transfer machines and phasing in requirements on the installation of control devices for dryer exhaust airstreams.

Hazardous Waste

Dry cleaning facilities typically generate wastes in the form of cooked powder residues, still bottom residues, spent cartridges, and button/lint trap wastes. These wastes are perc-based and have an EPA Hazardous Waste Number of F002. Dry cleaners may also occasionally dispose of unused perc and these wastes have a Hazardous Waste Number of U210. The EPA Hazardous Waste Number is needed when filling out the Notification of Hazardous Waste Activity form (Figure II-1, page II-24) when obtaining an EPA Identification Number for generating hazardous waste. It is also needed when filling out the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest (Figure II-6, page II-41). This Manifest must accompany each hazardous waste shipment to ensure the hazardous waste arrives at its final destination. Of course, most of the perc wastes are recycled instead of being disposed. In this case, they are not subject to the hazardous waste regulations.

Wastewater

The only source of process wastewater that would be of general concern to a dry cleaner is separater water, since it contains perc. Separator water can be disposed of as a hazardous waste or treated in a mister or an evaporator. Disposal of untreated separator water into on-site disposal systems such as dry wells, cesspools, and septic tanks is prohibited. Disposal into a municipal sewer system is subject to state and local Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) requirements.

Complying with the law

In September, 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued national regulations to control air emissions of perchloroethylene (perc) from dry cleaners. The rule, in the form of a national emission standard for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) for perc dry cleaning facilities, was published in the September 22, 1993 edition of the Federal Register(volume 58, page. 49354). The regulation affects all dry cleaners that use perc. There are also regulations that control the water that leaves your facility (via a drain, sewer, surface or the ground! There are regulations that control any pollution you put on the ground or soil. There are regulations for any waste that you put in the dumpster, trash, or take away from you facility, or have taken away.

these are serious laws with criminal penalties. You MUST understand them and how to comply - jail is the alternative!

If you read nothing else, read these documents!

bulletWhich regulations apply to my dry cleaning shop?
bulletHow do I prepare my dry cleaner to comply with environmental requirements?
bulletHow to properly operate a dry cleaning machine and shop to stay in compliance with enviromental regulations?
  • Questions that an Inspector May Ask While Visiting Your Dry Cleaning Shop [40K pdf file]
  • Questions? E-mail Garment and Textile Care Partnership Helpline
  • OSHA

    Hazards such as chemical, fire, and ergonomic-related are associated with dry cleaning processes. Exposure to hazardous chemicals commonly used in dry cleaning shops may occur through skin absorption, eye contact, or inhalation of the vapors. Perchloroethylene (PERC), a potential human carcinogen, is the most commonly used dry cleaning solvent. Symptoms associated with exposure include: depression of the central nervous system; damage to the liver and kidneys; impaired memory; confusion; dizziness; headache; drowsiness; and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Repeated dermal exposure may result in dermatitis.

    The following questions link to safety and health information relevant to dry cleaning.
  • bullet What OSHA standards apply?
    Standards | Preambles to Final Rules| Standards Interpretations
    bullet How do I recognize dry cleaning hazards?
    bullet What are some examples of possible solutions for dry cleaning hazards?
    bullet Where can I find additional information?
    Related Safety and Health Topics Pages | Other Resources

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    EPA Fact Sheets

    PROGRAM DOCUMENTS

    Siloxane D5 in Drycleaning Applications Fact Sheet [Web Only]
    (EPA/744-F-03-004)
    August 2003, 1 page
    PDF version of Siloxane D5 in Drycleaning Applications Fact Sheet   (31KB)
    This fact sheet describes final results of a cancer study on Siloxane D5. It also notes that EPA cannot make a determination on potential risk to human health until a mode of action analysis has been completed (end of 2006), and, if appropriate, a risk assessment has been conducted.

     Garment & Textile Care Program Fact Sheet: Cleaner Clothes, Cleaner Neighborhoods, and Cleaner Solutions
    (EPA/744-F-98-012)
    June 2001, 2 pages
    PDF Version of the Garment and Textile Care Partnership Fact Sheet
    This fact sheet provides an up-to-date description of EPA's DfE Garment and Textile Care Program and research efforts. It describes some of DfE's technical studies, implementation efforts, and outreach activities working with the garment care industry to reduce exposure to perchloroethylene, also known as "perc," a chemical solvent used by most drycleaners.
     Korean Version of the Garment and Textile Care Partnership Fact Sheet (PDF) (504 KB)
    Para la versin de espaol, vea Hoja de Datos del Programa de Cuidado de Tejidos y Prendas de Vestir: Prendas M's Limpias, Vecindarios M's Limpios y Soluciones M's Limpias y
    Hoja de Datos del Programa de Cuidado de Tejidos y Prendas de Vestir: Prendas M's Limpias, Vecindarios M's Limpios y Soluciones M's Limpias (PDF) (249 KB)

     Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes: Fact Sheet
    (EPA/744-F-98-011)
    June 1998, 2 pages
    PDF version of Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes Fact Sheet (45 KB)
    This document provides an overview of the Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes (CTSA). It describes what is covered in the fabricare CTSA and how it affects the public and drycleaners.
     KOREAN Version of Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes Fact Sheet (PDF) (530 KB)
    Para la versin de espaol, vea Hoja de Datos del Programa de Cuidado de Tejidos y Prendas de Vestir: Evaluacin de Substitutos con Tecnologa Menos Contaminante, (CTSA) para Procesos Profesionales de Limpieza de Tejidos y
    Hoja de Datos del Programa de Cuidado de Tejidos y Prendas de Vestir: Evaluacin de Substitutos con Tecnologa Menos Contaminante, (CTSA) para Procesos Profesionales de Limpieza de Tejidos (PDF) (249 KB)

     Frequently Asked Questions About Drycleaning
    (EPA/744-K-98-002)
    June 1998, 7 pages
    PDF version of Frequently Asked Questions about Drycleaning (246 KB)
    This plain English document answers a number of frequently asked questions about drycleaning.
    (689 KB)
    Para la versin de espaol, vea Programa de Limpieza de Tejidos y Prendas de Vestir: Preguntas frecuentes sobre la limpieza a seco  PDF (326KB)

    Proceedings: Apparel Care and the Environment - Alternative Technologies and Labeling [Web Only]
    (EPA/744-R-96-002)
    September 1996, 220 pages
    PDF version of Proceedings: Apparel Care and the Environment - Alternative Technologies and Labeling (2900 MB)
    The Apparel Care and the Environment: Alternative Technologies and Labeling conference brought together stakeholders to learn about developments in alternative technologies and care labeling, and to discuss the focus of future efforts. This document contains transcribed presentations, copies of the papers presented during the conference, and a summary of discussion sessions.

     Garment and Textile Care: An Eye to the Future, 1998 Conference Proceedings   [Image file]
    (EPA/744-R-98-006)
    October 1998, 360 pages
    This proceedings document is a record of "an Eye on the Future..." conference held in March 1998. The conference showcased the latest and most effective garment cleaning methods. It was organized to develop a multiyear plan to evaluate ways garments can be cleaned using new technologies that are friendly to the environment. These proceedings include transcribed presentations, copies of visual aids presented during the conference, and a summary of discussion sessions.

    TECHNICAL REPORTS

     Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes
    (EPA/744-B-98-001)
    June 1998, 450 pages
    PDF version of Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes (1800 MB)
    The Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment (CTSA) is a tool developed by the DfE Program for a technically-informed audience. The fabricare CTSA presents information on existing drycleaning processes such as perchloroethylene and hydrocarbons, as well as new and emerging technologies such as wetcleaning and liquid carbon dioxide. This report includes relative cost, risk, and performance information.

     Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes: Summary
    (EPA/744-S-98-001)
    June 1998, 42 pages
    PDF version of Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes: Summary (931 KB)
    This document, a much shorter summary version of the Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes, was abstracted from the CTSA itself and is also intended for technical audiences.

     Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes: Peer Review Process
    (EPA/744-P-98-002)
    June 1998, 146 pages
    PDF version of Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for Professional Fabricare Processes: Peer Review Process (1100 MB)
    This document summarizes the results of independent technical peer review of the fabricare CTSA.

    REFERENCE INFORMATION

    The Cleaner Guide: A List of Professional Cleaners Offering Wetcleaning and Liquid Carbon Dioxide Cleaning Processes [Web Only]
    (EPA/744-F-03-002)
    April 2003, 10 pages
    PDF version of The Cleaner Guide
    Lists professional cleaners that offer wetcleaning, liquid carbon dioxide, and silicone cleaning processes.

     Garment & Textile Care Resource Guide
    (EPA/744-K-98-005)
    June 2001, 8 pages
    PDF Version of the Garment and Textile Care Resource Guide
    This guide lists various print and electronic information resources covering a wide range of topics and organizations pertaining to garment and textile care. It is helpful to cleaners and others hoping to learn more about the issues currently facing the garment and textile care industries.


    List of Major Federal Regulations Affecting Petroleum Cleaners: Fact Sheet
    [Web Only]
    (EPA/744-F-99-005)
    May 1999, 4 pages
    PDF version of the List of Major Federal Regulations Affecting Petroleum Cleaners: Fact Sheet
    This document serves as a guide to EPA and OSHA regulations and standards affecting petroleum drycleaners. It also provides a listing of EPA and OSHA officials by geographic region who can be contacted for further information.

    Multimedia Inspection Guidance for Drycleaning Facilities [Image file] [Web Only]
    (EPA/305-B-96-001)
    August 1996, 80 pages

     Plain English Guide for Perc Dry Cleaners
    (EPA/305-B-96-002)
    August 1996, 65 pages
    PDF version of Plain English Guide for Perc Cleaners (762 KB)
    Follows the step-by-step approach perc dry cleaners should take to comply with the federal environmental and health regulations pertaining to them. Also includes the forms necessary to be in compliance with federal air regulations. Also available in Korean in hard copy only.

    Pollution Prevention Products for Illinois Dry Cleaners: Testing and Recommendations of Chemical for Wetcleaning [Web Only] Exit Disclaimer
    Report of the Center for Neighborhood Technology Chicago, Illinois
    Written by Anthony Star and William Eyring
    April 2004, 22 pages

     Profile of the Dry Cleaning Industry
    (EPA/310-R-95-001)
    September 1995, 84 pages
    This document provides information on all aspects of the garment care industry, including general industry information, industrial processes used, pollution prevention techniques, pollutant release data, regulatory requirements, and examples of current EPA initiatives geared toward the garment care industry.

    TRAINING/EDUCATION MATERIALS

     Training Curriculum for Alternative Clothes Cleaning Vol. 1: Curriculum (PDF) (487KB) and Vol. 2: Instructor's Manual and Presentation Materials
    (EPA/744-R-97-004a)
    May 1997, 115 pages
    (EPA/744-R-97-004b)
    May 1997, 192 pages
    This training course teaches garment care professionals and staff about wetcleaning. Developed by the University of Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute, this course explains how wetcleaning works and how to operate a wetcleaning facility. The course also explains how to convert a dry cleaning facility to a wetcleaning facility.

    CASE STUDIES

     Garment and Textile Care: Military Uniform Cleaning Study
    (EPA/744-F-01-003)
    May 2001, 4 pages
    PDF version of Military Uniform Cleaning Study
    This case study provides an overview of a joint EPA and DOD study that examines the feasibility of replacing traditional uniform dry cleaning processes with environmentally preferable cleaning technologies

     Case Study: 100% Wetcleaning Facility: Route-only Service
    (EPA/744-F-01-004)
    May 2001, 4 pages
    PDF VERSION of Case Study: 100% Wetcleaning Facility: Route-Only Service
    This case study provides an overview of the wetcleaning process and highlights The Laundry Club, a 100 percent wetcleaning business in Leesburg, Virginia.

     Case Study: Liquid Carbon Dioxide Surfactant System for Garment Care
    (EPA/744-F-99-002)
    May 1999, 8 pages
    PDF version of Case Study: Liquid Carbon Dioxide Surfactant System for Garment Care (651 KB)
    This case study provides information on the cost, performance, environmental impact, and human health and safety impact of the Micell Technologies, Inc. Micare clothes cleaning technology and process.

     Case Study: Wetcleaning Systems for Garment Care
    (EPA/744-F-98-016)
    May 1999, 8 pages
    PDF version of Case Study: Wetcleaning Systems for Garment Care (358 KB)
    This case study provides information on the cost performance, environmental impact, and human health and safety impact of wetcleaning technologies and processes.

     Case Study: Water-Based Cleaning System for Suede and Leather
    (EPA/744-K-98-017)
    May 1999, 4 pages
    PDF version of Case Study: Water-Based Cleaning Systems for Suede and Leather (308 KB)
    This case study provides information on the cost, performance, environmental impact, and human health and safety impact of the Kirk's Suede-Life, Inc. clothes cleaning technology and process.

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     Industrial & Institutional Laundry Publications

    Order documents by placing a check next to items on the list below and filling out the order form at the bottom of the page. You may also place an order directly to the National Service Center for Environmental Publications.

    Many of the following documents are available as downloadable PDF files and can be read with Acrobat Reader version 3.0 or higher. Learn more about PDF files and download a free copy of Acrobat Reader.

    PROJECT BROCHURE

    Industrial and Institutional Laundry Partnership Initiative-EPA and Industry Working Together [Web Only]
    (EPA/744-F-98-008)
    November 1999
    This brochure highlights the benefits of partnership and some key points EPA considers when deciding whether to partner.

    PARTNERSHIP DOCUMENTS

    Considerations for Partnership [Web Only]
    (EPA/744-F-98-009)
    January 1999
    DfE's Considerations paper discusses the program's approach to forming partnerships and ways to improve the environmental profile of laundry products and processes.

    Invitation to Partner and Worksheet to Evaluate Alternative Ingredients: A Note to Industrial and Institutional Laundry Formulators [Web Only]
    (EPA/744-F-02-017)
    1999; Updated November 2002
    To obtain an initial environmental profile of a detergent's ingredients, DfE encourages potential formulator partners to fill out the Ingredient Worksheet. DfE will use a completed worksheet-handled strictly as proprietary business information-to prepare a preliminary health and environmental assessment of a formulation's ingredients. This initial profile can serve as a baseline for considering safer alternatives and as a discussion piece for developing a partnership agreement.

    Industrial and Institutional Laundry Ingredients Worksheet [Web Only]
    August 12, 2002
    A worksheet to help the company to begin developing an environmental and human health profile of the ingredients the company uses. With it, DfE prepares a preliminary assessment profile of the company's ingredients as a baseline for considering safer alternatives. DfE will consider all information provided as proprietary and will handle it in a strictly confidential manner.

    Boilerplate Memorandum of Understanding: Formulators for Institutional Laundries (PDF) (17 KB) [Web Only]
    (EPA/744-F-99-007)
    October 1999
    This sample memorandum of understanding (MOU) offers potential partners an understanding of the elements in a typical partnership and may be used as a model in drafting a new MOU. The circumstances and needs of an individual partnership will shape an MOU's specific content and wording.

    TECHNICAL FACT SHEET

    Technical Fact Sheet on Key Characteristics of Laundry Detergent Ingredients [Web Only]
    (EPA/744-F-99-009)
    May 1999, 2 pages
    The Ingredient Fact Sheet summarizes some of the key environmental and human health characteristics - positive and negative - that DfE has identified in laundry detergent ingredients and systems. This document provides an overview of the characteristics and the project itself.

    Key Characteristics of Laundry Detergent Ingredients [Web Only]
    (EPA/744-F-99-008)
    May 1999, 3 pages
    This fact sheet summarizes some of the key environmental and human health characteristics - positive and negative - that DfE has identified in laundry detergent ingredients and systems.