What is PERC & Why it is Harmful

PERC, or perchloroethylene, is a colourless liquid used by many traditional dry cleaners to clean clothes. It’s also known as PCE or tetrachloroethylene.

What is PERC used for?

PERC is used as a cleaning solution by many traditional dry cleaners as well as a fabric finisher, however its other uses include:

  • Adhesives
  • Spot removers
  • Typewriter correction fluid
  • Shoe polish
  • Printer ink
  • Household cleaning supplies
  • Paint

Is PERC toxic?

PERC was found to be a ‘likely human carcinogen’ by the National Academy of Sciences in 2008, which means it is likely to cause cancer. In addition to this in 2000, tetrachloroethylene was added to the ‘List of Toxic Substances’ in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999. A substance classified as toxic means it may have an immediate or long term harmful effect on the environment and may endanger human life or health.

Being exposed to it can produce several symptoms like the following.

Short term side effects of PERC

The short term side effects of PERC include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Respiratory irritation
  • Eye irritation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Irritation, redness, and chapping if it comes into contact with your skin

Long term side effects of PERC

Long term exposure to PERC can affect the following areas:

  • Your mood
  • Your attention span
  • Your memory
  • Your vision
  • Your reaction time

Who is at risk of being exposed to PERC?

If your dry cleaner uses PERC, or you live near a dry cleaners that use it, you may be at risk of being exposed to PERC. This can happen in the following ways:

  1. Ingestion: if you drink water that has been contaminated with PERC
  2. Inhalation: If you breathe it in through chemical releases from clothes that have been cleaned using PERC, or from chemicals and substances containing PERC, or from air that has been polluted by PERC
  3. Absorption: If you wear clothes cleaned with PERC, or come into contact with substances containing it, or even if it’s in your bath/shower/sink water.

If you think you may have been affected by PERC, contact your GP.

Is PERC bad for the environment?

PERC can be harmful for the surrounding environment, and needs to be handled as a hazardous waste. It’s corrosive enough to eat through many materials, and can quickly contaminate groundwater – this leads to health problems for those in the area.

Does 1 Stop Wash use PERC?

No, 1 Stop Wash doesn’t use PERC – we are a PERC-free dry cleaners, and we use cleaner, greener chemicals to get your clothes clean and fresh. If you live in King’s Cross or the surrounding area, you’ll know you have a green dry cleaner who can deliver your clothes right to your door.