TORONTO, Canada — Toronto’s Public Health department voted last week to seek a gradual phaseout of perchloroethylene use in drycleaning throughout Canada from the federal government. The city is also exploring a localized ban on perc use in condominium and office buildings, or “colocated” facilities.
According to a Public Health staff report, about 360 cleaners in Toronto use perc to clean clothes, and about half of those operate in colocated facilities. Area cleaners testified in a meeting that they would be forced to close or relocate to the suburbs of the city if such a ban is passed.
“I don’t have a magic rainbow full of cash at the end of the day,” Brian Chelsky, operator of Careful Hand Laundry & Dry Cleaners and a recipient of Special Honors in American Drycleaner's 2005 Plant Design Awards, told the board. “I’m a hard worker, and we get by. I’d have to raise my prices.”
Canada’s national health department, Health Canada, hasn’t yet designated perc as a “possible” or “probable” human carcinogen, unlike other regulatory bodies worldwide, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and World Health Organization (WHO).
Board members focused on toxicity. “Forget for a moment whether or not it’s a carcinogen,” Toronto ward councilor and board member Gord Perks said. “It’s a nerve toxin, it is a kidney toxin, it is a liver toxin, it is a gastrointestinal toxin. It is a seriously harmful chemical. It’s just that Canada happens to have looser regulatory standards on this.”