Air Resources Board Sets Toxic Control Measures for Dry Cleaning Solvent
For immediate release
SACRAMENTO – The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has adopted control measures to reduce the potential cancer threat of perchloroethylene, a toxic solvent most commonly used by dry cleaners, by up to 75 percent.
The ARB's new rules are expected to reduce the compound's cancer threat from about 250 cases per million over 70 years to around 55 per million over that time period, particularly for residents who live near neighborhood dry cleaners. Perchloroethylene emissions have also been found to cause some non-toxic health effects, such as headaches, dizziness and skin, eye and respiratory irritation.
About one half of the state's 4,800 dry cleaners already meet the new measures that require the replacement of open vent machines or high polluting transfer machines with one-step closed loop equipment that eliminates the need to move solvent-laden clothing from one machine to another. The remaining facilities will have up tp four years to exchange their equipment after the ARB's rules are adopted by local air pollution control agencies. ARB cost estimates for buying new closed loop equipment range between $40,000 and $60,000 and about $20,000 for used equipment.
The new rules also allow dry cleaners who choose to upgrade existing high polluting equipment to close loop systems up to 18 months to complete those conversions at expected costs to between $7,000 and $10,000. In addition to the equipment upgrades, the new ARB rules call for most dry cleaners to use improved recycling techniques, take ARB approved operator training, and to provide local anti-smog agencies with solvent use records.
New dry cleaning businesses which begin operation more than 18 months after local district rules are adopted, also will have to install a secondary control system that further limits pollution from closed loop systems. Those secondary devices will reduce the remaining perchloroethylene emissions by about 95 percent by capturing pollution that normally would escape when the machine door is open.
Jananne Sharpless, ARB chairwoman said, "These rules are times to allow most dry cleaners to wear out their old, high-polluting equipment before buying new machines or upgrading older ones.
"Therefore, we protect both the health of Californians who live near or work in dry cleaners as well as the economic health of local small businesses by speeding up a trend to newer machines throughout the state."
Expected savings to dry cleaners from stepped up efforts to recycle the compound will partly offset the cost of upgrading or replacing high-polluting equipment. ARB data shows that closed loop systems use about 70 percent less perc than transfer machines. Yearly costs for employee training and equipment maintenance are expected to range in cost from $300 to $3,000 for most of the state's dry cleaners.
More than 60 percent of the solvent, nearly 6,600 tons per year, is used by dry cleaning operations, the compound is also used as a degreaser and as an ingredient in some paints, coatings and adhesives. About 75 percent (5,030 tpy) of all the perc that is used by dry cleaners is released into either the air or leaked into groundwater. The rules focus on dry cleaners because of their locations in residential areas and their potential for exposure to nearby residents.
Perchloroethylene became the seventh toxic compound controlled by the Board, which acted after the federal Environmental Protection Agency adopted a rule in September to control emissions of the compound from dry cleaners nationwide. The ARB's rule is expected to accelerate the current statewide trend of replacing old equipment with newer, lower-polluting machines.