Risky chemical still used in Colorado dry cleaners
It's meant to clean clothes, but extended exposure to a chemical commonly used by dry cleaners could lead to serious health risks, including cancer.
Perchloroethylene, commonly called perc or PCE, is a colorless, non-flammable liquid that evaporates easily. The Environmental Protection Agency said wearing clothes dry-cleaned with perc shouldn't be a problem, but extended exposure to it can cause cancer.
Because of its risk, having perc on the ground or in the air could be risky.
"It can seep through concrete and through the soil and get into the ground water. Once it gets into the ground water, it can move with the ground water, it can stick to the soil, and continue to recontaminate the ground water," said Warren Smith, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "And then if it gets under a building, the vapors from it can work their way up through the soil and collect in someone's home and that's where you see your most common kind of exposure risk."
The CDPHE is currently cleaning up 100 sites throughout the state that have been contaminated by perc. None of them are in Pueblo, Fremont or Teller counties, but there are several in El Paso County:
- Broadmoor Hotel Cleaners 8 E. Lake Cir Colorado Springs, CO
- Couture's Fabric Care 5042 N. Academy Blvd. Colorado Springs, CO
- Couture's Fabric Care 3605 Austin Bluffs Pkwy. Colorado Springs, CO
- Golf Acres Laundry 1528 N. Hancock Ave. Colorado Springs, CO
- London Cleaners 3651 Star Ranch Rd. Colorado Springs, CO
- New Mission LLC 3217 S. Academy Blvd. Colorado Springs, CO
- Shalom Cleaners 4585 Austin Bluffs Pkwy. Colorado Springs, CO
- White Cleaners 5138 N. Academy Blvd. Colorado Springs, CO
- York Cleaners 6810 N. Academy Blvd. Colorado Springs, CO
Smith said most of the perc release took place in the 50's or 60's when perc's risks weren't well known and dry cleaners used different methods of disposing of the chemical. But Smith said they work to eliminate exposure in their clean up sites.
"Of all of the sites that we are working on right now, our first order of business is to interrupt the pathway where people might become exposed," he said. "So no one is being exposed to perc due to drinking it or to breathing it where we have gotten involved in an active cleanup."
Smith said the the CDPHE can't ban perc use. Legislators must initiate it. But it has sponsored workshops to show dry cleaners the advantages of using alternatives. Dry cleaners that use perc must register with CDPHE. There are 350 of them registered statewide, but Smith said there could be up to 500.
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