The health risks of dry cleaning and how to protect yourself

While dry cleaning is a fast and convenient service that saves you lots of time, there...

While dry cleaning is a fast and convenient service that saves you lots of time, there are some health risks involved that you should be aware of. Recent studies have found that perchloroethylene the chemical used in most dry cleaning facilities can put your health at risk.

The facts about PERC

The common name for perchloroethylene is PERC, and chronic exposure to it has been linked to health problems, including headaches, dizziness, fatigue and nausea. According to the EPA, PERC is even a possible carcinogen. It is colorless and, in small amounts, almost odorless. PERC also lingers on your clothes and slowly works its way into the air in your house. If you use these services regularly, be aware of the risks involved and take the proper measures to protect you and your family.

Five ways to protect your health

1. Ask your cleaner to reprocess clothes. If there is a strong chemical smell coming from your clothes upon picking them up from the cleaner, ask them to clean them again. It's possible that not all the PERC was removed from the garments.

2. Try the "wet cleaning" alternative. As result of the health issues caused by PERC, some cleaners have adopted new ways of cleaning clothes. Wet cleaning, the most popular, involves using water-based solutions to clean garments. Bring your clothes to a dry cleaner that offers wet cleaning services.

3. Buy less clothing that requires dry cleaning. Try being more conscious of the types of clothing you buy, avoiding ones that require professional cleaning. This might be tough if you work in an office environment, but the less clothing you have that must be brought to the cleaners means the less you'll be in contact with PERC. (And you'll save some money!)

4. Use a reputable cleaner that adheres to safety requirements. Another way to protect your health is to use a dry cleaning service that follows the proper safety regulations, including proper ventilation procedures suggested by the CDC.

5. Try hand washing your clothes. A little elbow grease can go a long way. Although it may be cumbersome, hand washing your clothes is a sure way to keep them chemical free. To hand wash delicate garments that would otherwise be dry cleaned, use warm water and the recommended amount of laundry detergent specified on its packaging. Let the clothes soak for no more than 20 minutes, then gently swirl them for a few minutes. Don't wring them out like towels when drying them. This might cause damage. Simply push them against the side of the basin and let the water drain out.

The EPA has been tightening regulations on the use of PERC, and it's already illegal in the state of California. If you feel that you may have been exposed to too much PERC as a result of dry cleaning services, contact your Atlanta doctor to schedule a visit.

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