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California to become Nation's first PERC-free state, EPA
Mar '11
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved California's regulations banning the use of the toxic air contaminant perchloroethylene (PERC) from the state's dry cleaning operations by 2023. This action means that the current federal regulations will be replaced with California's more stringent approach, which now can be enforced by the federal EPA and citizens of California.

PERC, a possible human carcinogen, is a man-made liquid solvent often used in the dry cleaning industry, in textile mill operations, by chlorofluorocarbon producers, for vapor degreasing and in metal cleaning operations. The dry cleaning industry is a leading user of PERC in the U.S.

“We applaud California's efforts to rid its dry cleaning industry of this dangerous toxin,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “The state's approach gives consumers healthier dry cleaning alternatives.”

According to California's Air Resources Board, the estimated number of PERC-using machines has been steadily dropping from 4670 machines in 2003 to 2000 machines in 2009. Meanwhile, the estimated number of wet cleaning and CO2 machines – which use less toxic cleaning methods – has almost tripled from 90 machines in 2003 to 253 machines in 2009.

EPA's Toxic Reporting Inventory database reports that more than 107,043 pounds of PERC were released to the environment in California in 2009, mostly through air emissions.

Exposure to PERC can occur in the workplace or in the environment following releases to air, water, land, or groundwater. Exposure can also occur when people use products containing PERC, spend time in dry cleaning facilities that use PERC, live next to dry cleaning facilities, or bring dry cleaned garments into their homes. Once in the body, PERC can remain stored in fat tissue. In addition to being a possible human carcinogen, exposure to PERC is also associated with chronic, non-cancer health effects, including liver and kidney damage in rodents, and neurological effects in humans.

California's Airborne Toxic Control Measure for dry cleaning operations implements a ban on the use of PERC in dry cleaning operations in California. All remaining PERC dry cleaning machines must be removed from service by January 1, 2023. The California Air Resources Board identified PERC as a toxic air contaminant in 1991, and adopted the current Airborne Toxic Control Measure regulating PERC dry cleaning operations in 2007.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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