From: Associated Press
Published July 17, 2006 12:00 AM

EPA Orders Phase-Out of Dry Cleaning Chemical

WASHINGTON — Dry cleaners operating in residential buildings will have to begin phasing out their use of a suspected cancer-causing chemical.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it was tightening rules for the nation's 28,000 dry-cleaning businesses that use perchloroethylene, or perc. The solvent has a sharp, sweet odor that most people can easily smell -- and affects the central nervous system.

Officials said the rule is an attempt to eliminate the risk, though small, that people could get sick from smelling perc used at a dry cleaning business located in a building where people live. EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood called that risk preventable.

Dry cleaners in residential buildings must eliminate machines that use the chemical as the machines wear out; they generally last about 15 years. By 2020, no dry cleaning machines in residential buildings will be permitted to use it. Improvements also are required in detecting and repairing leaks of perc, one of 187 substances EPA regulates as hazardous air pollutants.

All those are known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health problems. EPA began its air toxics standards program in 1993, but it has been updating those regulations to comply with a settlement with the Sierra Club over the agency's missed deadlines.

EPA said dry cleaners have cut their perc emissions by about 15,000 tons since the program began, by using other solvents and replacing older dry-cleaning machines.

Source: Associated Press

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