In a significant action to protect public health, EPA is tightening rules for all dry cleaners that use the chemical perchloroethylene (perc), including a phase-out of the chemical in dry cleaners located in residential buildings.
“This is an important step in our comprehensive strategy to expand and enhance public health protections in the dry cleaning industry,” said Bill Wehrum, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for Air and Radiation. “The phase-out in residential buildings and improved protections are good for public health and good for the environment.”
While the potential for health effects from most dry cleaners across the country are generally low, EPA found that a small number of dry cleaners located in residential buildings posed a risk that warrants action. For residential buildings, the final rule requires the phase-out of perc machines as they wear out. By 2020, dry cleaning machines in residential buildings are prohibited from using perc; they may continue to operate if they use alternative technologies. In the interim, owners of perc machines will use enhanced technology to detect and repair leaks as they occur. The final rule will also require dry cleaners to use more sophisticated methods to detect and repair perc emissions from large and commercial dry cleaners and small dry cleaners often found in shopping centers.
Under the Clean Air Act, perc is one of 187 pollutants EPA regulates as air toxics, also known as hazardous air pollutants. Air toxics are pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health problems. Since the implementation of EPA’s 1993 air toxics standards, dry cleaners have reduced perc emissions by about 15,000 tons a year through increased use of alternative solvents, replacement of older dry-cleaning machines and state and industry programs to improve efficiency and reduce perc use. Nationwide, approximately 28,000 dry cleaners use perc.
More information on the rule: http://www.epa.gov/air/drycleaningrule.