CHICAGO — In February, after 14 years of study, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named perchloroethylene a “likely” human carcinogen in its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database. And after more than two decades of increasingly stringent regulation on the industry’s solvent of choice, the announcement seemed like the final nail in perc’s coffin.
Ironically, the decision actually protects perc’s position in dry cleaning, at least for the time being. “Everyone has the misconception that the category perc is in has changed,” says Faye Graul, executive director of the Halogenated Solvents Industry Association (HSIA). “It has not changed at all. The report says perc is safe for use in dry cleaning.”
EPA expressed no concerns about consumers wearing clothing cleaned in perc, and the IRIS report could ease the drinking-water standard required for environmental cleanups. And with a recent, recessionary lull in regulatory activity, only co-located facilities and plants in California and a few other areas see the possibility of a full phaseout ahead.