California stopped issuing licences for new dry cleaners using perchloroethylene several years ago, and as of 2020 all the current dry cleaners must have switched over to a system that does not use this highly toxic and polluting chemical.
The problem is that California, like many places in the world gets its drinking water from underground aquifers. Perchloroethylene released into the environment in California has cause contamination to the water supply in a number of areas, which has significant potential health consequences for the residents of the state.
Unlike oil based pollution, perchloroethylene is heavier than water, which means that when it enters the soil it will continue to sink through the soil until is reaches the bottom of the water table at which point it will collect. This makes it almost impossible to clean up, so it has the potential to pollute the water supply for many years to come.
We discussed the significant health problems associated with perchloroethylene in the previous blog post, so I won’t go into the list of devastating illnesses that this can cause, but the problem is now being recognised across the entire United States.
As of 2020 it will no longer be permitted for traditional dry cleaners to operate in residential areas. This is to remove the problem of air-born perchloroethylene pollution from damaging the health of residents nearby. In addition all dry cleaning machines more than 15 years old will no longer be allowed to be used.
Many experts are calling for a total ban on the use of perchloroethylene in dry cleaning, but there is no great public outcry and so no political will to upset the manufacturers of PCE and traditional dry cleaners. However, as more areas become polluted and the health issues rise it is likely that more countries will extend a complete ban on perc.
On a personal level you have the ability to avoid toxic solvents in your life and contribute to the health of your family, your community and the world. Simply choose switch from a traditional dry cleaner to a solvent-free eco cleaner.