How Your Dry Cleaning Could Be Harming You

By , Category : General Health

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Do you take your clothes to the dry cleaner’s on a regular basis? It used to be that people only used this service sporadically over the course of a year for the few articles of clothing that couldn’t be thrown in the washer. But now, it seems, the dry cleaner’s has become a weekly convenience that many use to clean their entire wardrobe. If you’ve fallen into the habit of using the dry cleaner’s on a frequent basis, you should know that the dry-cleaning chemical “tetrachlorethylene” (or PERC) has been labeled a likely human carcinogen. This health news comes courtesy of a new report published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

When your clothes are cleaned with PERC, they may emit this harmful chemical in a number of ways. Here’s a brief summary of some of the points made in the EPA report:

— Relatively high PERC air concentrations have been measured in the proximity of freshly dry-cleaned clothing stored in small, close spaces like closets

— A two-year-old boy was found dead after being put to sleep in a room with curtains that had been incorrectly dry-cleaned

— Dry-cleaned garments transported in an automobile may also lead to unexpectedly high levels of exposure

— Air exposure may also occur during showering or bathing as dissolved PERC in the warm tap water is volatilized

— Water samples collected near the bottom of the St. Clair River near Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, downstream from several petroleum-based production facilities, contained high PERC concentrations

— Certain foods have been found to be contaminated with PERC

— Due to its lipid solubility, PERC can concentrate in human breast milk

— Once absorbed, PERC is distributed to all tissues in the body, with concentrations reaching higher levels in the brain and liver than in many other tissues

— PERC can damage the nervous and reproductive systems, liver, and kidneys, and is a likely carcinogen

— People are mostly exposed to PERC by breathing it in the air, but exposure can also occur by ingestion or skin contact

Sounds like PERC is definitely something to stay away from! The best health advice would be to find a dry cleaner’s that doesn’t use solvents like PERC. You can also try to build your wardrobe around clothing that doesn’t need to be dry-cleaned.

On a side note, keep boosting your diet with antioxidants. It is inevitable that you will ingest some toxins due to the number of chemicals used in our society (click here to find out about another harmful substance you’ll want to avoid). Make sure you get a dose of these chemical-neutralizing substances every day.

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Dr. Richard Foxx, MD

About the Author, Browse Richard's Articles

Richard M. Foxx, MD has decades of medical experience with a comprehensive background in endocrinology, aesthetic and laser medicine, gynecology, and sports medicine. He has extensive experience with professional athletes, including several Olympic competitors. Dr. Foxx practices aesthetic and laser medicine, integrative medicine, and anti-aging medicine. He is the founder and Medical Director of the Medical and Skin Spa located in Indian Wells, California, at the Hyatt Regency Resort. Dr. Foxx is certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners... Read Full Bio »