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Toxic Drycleaning Chemical Banned In Calif.

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Aired 3/8/11

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved California's efforts to ban a hazardous chemical used in dry cleaning.

Several San Diego dry cleaners stopped using the toxic air contaminant PERC years ago.

PERC is perchloroethylene - a man-made solvent used primarily in drycleaning.

The Environmental Protection Agency says California would become the first state to ban the use of PERC from dry-cleaning operations. The state regulations take effect in 2023.

Gordon Shaw is the owner and operator of Hangers Cleaners in San Diego.

He started using an all natural liquid carbon dioxide dry-cleaning process 10 years ago.

"As long as I was using PERC there was always rumblings as far as getting rid of it, regulating it, or precautions," said Shaw. "I was never really all that crazy about working around it. But it was the tool we used to clean people's clothes."

The California Air Resources Board says the number of dry cleaners using PERC has dropped about 50 percent in the last 10 years.

The EPA estimated the number of machines using wet cleaning and CO2 methods, as Shaw uses, has increased in the past decade.

The EPA said exposure to PERC can occur in the workplace, or in the environment following release to air, water, land, or groundwater.

Exposure also happens to people using products containing PERC, spending time in dry-cleaning facilities that use PERC, living next to dry-cleaning facilities, or bringing dry-cleaned clothes into their homes.

The EPA said once in the body, PERC can remain stored in fat tissue.

The agency said PERC is associated with chronic, non-cancer health effects, including liver and kidney damage in rodents, and neurological effects in humans.

All remaining PERC dry cleaning machines must be removed from service by Jan. 1, 2023.

The California Air Resources Board identified PERC as a toxic air contaminant in 1991.

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