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Detox After Coming Into Contact With Dry Cleaning Chemicals

by Carolyn Pierini, CLS (ASCP), CNC

The “dry” part of dry cleaning is actually a chemical process. Most dry cleaners use chemical solvents, especially tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene (PCE) or “perc” for short. According to the National Toxicology Program and an international agency also studying the matter, it is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that perc has been shown to cause abnormalities in lab animals but the agency is currently assessing its carcinogenicity in humans along with other health impacts. Evidence from both human and animal studies indicates that perchloroethylene adversely affects the central nervous system. Even low concentrations, when inhaled, can cause dizziness, headache, vision disturbances in addition to eye and respiratory irritation. The California EPA plans to phase perc out of dry cleaning by 2023. A recent Georgetown University study found high levels of residual perc on dry-cleaned wool, cotton and polyester but not on silk. After one week the concentration of perc on wool was reduced by half, suggesting that the chemical vaporizes into the home environment.

Although there are very few safer dry cleaning technologies, liquid carbon dioxide and biodegradable wet cleaning appears to be the safest.

When you must dry clean, ask your cleaners if they use perc, siloxane, or other hydrocarbon solvents. Look for cleaners that use liquid carbon dioxide or a wet cleaning method. When perc cleaning is the only option, don’t leave dry cleaning in closed spaces such as your car where vapors can build up; rather, take dry cleaning outdoors to “air-out” for awhile or hang in a well-ventilated area to reduce perc concentrations before hanging in the closet.

Perc represents another of the thousands of chemicals we encounter in modern living. Supplying the body with specialized nutrients such as those found in Detox Complex helps support the pathways for detoxification and clearance of many environmental toxins.