EPA Approves California Ban on Dry Cleaning Solvent

Published April 11, 2011

California dry cleaners will have to find alternative chemicals to remove sweat and grit from garments and other dry-clean items, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the state’s proposal to ban the use of the perchloroethylene (PERC), a liquid solvent commonly used in the dry cleaning industry. EPA’s decision means California will have more stringent restrictions than those laid down by the EPA nationwide.

PERC has been on the chopping block in California since 2007 when the California Air Resources Board (ARB) adopted the Airborne Toxic Control Measure that will gradually phase out the use of PERC by Jan 1, 2023.

No Human Health Impacts
PERC is identified as a hazardous air pollutant by EPA and the California Air Resource Board (ARB). The dose, however, makes the poison, and EPA data have not supported bans on the useful cleaning solvent.

American Council on Science and Health president and founder Elizabeth Whelan says there is no evidence PERC is harming human health.

“There’s no evidence whatsoever that PERC has ever hurt anyone. Yet it’s on the environmentalist’s list of targets,” Whelan said.

Phased-In Restrictions
EPA’s approval of the California ARB regulation applies throughout the state except for incorporated cities within four counties regulated by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD). The AQMD has a PERC ban of its own in the works.

The ARB restrictions also address manufacturers and distributors of PERC. Manufacturers that sell PERC for dry cleaning use in California must keep monthly sales records and report to California ARB their distributors’ contact information and any subsequent changes to that information.

Unnecessary Economic Harm
“California is in its own little world,” said Whelan. “They’re paying dearly for this in terms of their economy failing. There are people leaving the state to work in Arizona, where they can escape these ridiculous rules.

“Part of the problem is not only the extreme environmentalists but also scientists in California who know better but who are not banging on the doors of the legislators and saying, ‘Let me tell you the scientific truth about this.’ They’re just mute,” Whelan observed.

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.