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Outdoor Air - Industry, Business, and Home: Dry Cleaning Operations - Additional Information

This information will help you gain a better understanding the dry cleaning industry. The topics below address the following questions:

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What are dry cleaning operations?

Dry cleaning shops offer garment cleaning services to consumers and commercial businesses. Their activities include cleaning, drying, stain removal, and finishing. EPA has an excellent profile of the dry cleaning industry.

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What kinds of pollutants are emitted from dry cleaning operations?

Dry cleaning operations emit pollutants such as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). These pollutants can contribute to health problems that may affect shop employees, customers, and the community. While Federal, state, local, and Tribal regulations limit the amount of emissions from dry cleaners, dangerous releases of HAPs can occur if a dry cleaner does not operate in compliance with regulations.

  • The main source of pollution from dry cleaners is the solvent used in the cleaning process. The most comment solvents are perchloroethylene and petroleum solvents.
  • Perchlorethylene (perc)
    • Perc is a known HAP and may contribute to cancer in humans.
    • EPA's Air Toxics Health Effects Notebook has more information on perc.
  • Petroleum Solvents
  • Petroleum solvents used in dry cleaning operations can release some HAPs and VOC.
  • Chemicals in these substances can also react with sunlight to contribute to ground level ozone (smog), which has been linked to a number of respiratory effects. Ozone continues to be a significant problem in many areas of the United States. EPA has developed a Web site dedicated to information on ground-level ozone.

For more information on the toxicity of these pollutants, check out information on the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). EPA also has more information available at its Air Toxics Web site.

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How can I help dry cleaners reduce air pollution?

  • Make Connections
    • Get to know local dry cleaners because they know best about the materials and processes used in their businesses and the regulations with which they must comply.
    • Keep local media aware of progress by sending them updates. Publicity can reward success and attract more public involvement.
  • Make a Plan
    • One idea is to form a work group that includes local dry cleaners to develop and implement workable pollution reduction plans.
  • Locate Resources
    • Find state, local, and Tribal contacts.
    • Use the resources listed on these Web pages to get help with analysis, technical information, equipment, training, and funding.
  • Sponsor Training
    • Small shops may need funding in order to attend or provide training.
    • Improved skills lead to less exposure for workers.
    • Immigrants may own and operate dry cleaning operations. Sponsor translation of pollution prevention materials to languages commonly spoken by owners and operators.
  • Reward Shops
    • Use media connections to provide coverage for successful efforts. Positive publicity can mean increased business.
    • Visibly displayed awards or certificates may also increase business.
  • Consider establishing a program like Indiana's 5-Star Environmental Recognition Program for Dry Cleaners. Exit EPA Disclaimer

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What other Web sites related to pollution reduction in the dry cleaning industry are available?

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