EPA Approves California Rule Banning Perchloroethylene in Dry Cleaning Operations

LOS ANGELES--The Environmental Protection Agency March 7 approved a California rule banning perchloroethylene in dry cleaning facilities and in water repellent solutions by 2023.

Adopted by the California Air Resources Board in 2007, the rule replaces less stringent federal regulations for the toxic air contaminant, which EPA has linked to cancer (18 DEN A-12, 1/29/07).

California is the first state to impose a statewide ban on drying cleaners' use of the chemical.

CARB's rule barred the purchase of perchloroethylene dry cleaning machines beginning in January 2008 and required machines 15 years and older to be removed by July 2010. Also effective in 2010, the rule required dry cleaners located beneath or next to apartment buildings or homes to eliminate use of the solvent.

All perchloroethylene machines must be removed by Jan. 1, 2023, according to the rule.

In 2006, EPA ordered the dry cleaning facilities in apartment buildings to stop using perchloroethylene by 2020 (136 DEN A-1, 7/17/06).

Switch to Alternative Technologies.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District adopted a rule in 2002 to phase out use of perchloroethylene dry cleaning equipment by 2020. This, along with CARB's statewide rule, has spurred a switch to alternative technologies (236 DEN A-11, 12/9/02).

Alternative dry cleaning technologies include hydrocarbon-based, water-based, and carbon dioxide systems.

CARB estimated the number of perchloroethylene machines dropped from 4,670 in 2003 to 2,000 in 2009. The number of dry cleaning facilities using wet cleaning and carbon dioxide systems almost tripled from 90 in 2003 to 253 in 2009, according to CARB's estimates.

EPA Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld praised the state's effort to eliminate the use of the dangerous chemical in dry cleaning facilities. “The state's approach gives consumers healthier dry cleaning alternatives,” he said.

EPA has identified the chemical as a possible human carcinogen. The chemical also has been linked to liver and kidney damage in rodents and neurological effects in humans.

CARB added perchloroethylene to its lists of toxic air contaminants in 1991 after identifying it as a potential cause of lymphoma and esophageal, cervical, or bladder cancer.

By Carolyn Whetzel

CARB's Airborne Toxic Control Measure for Emissions of Perchloroethylene Associated with Dry Cleaning Operations and Requirements for Manufacturers and Distributors of Perchloroethylene is available at http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/dryclean/dryclean.htm