Dry cleaners' perc could be dissolved

Jackson Bell

Dry cleaners across the nation, including Burbank, are up in arms

as perchloroethylene, a popular cleaning solvent used among 85% of

dry cleaning businesses in the Southland, faces nationally proposed

regulation that would ban it.

The contention lies in the potential health hazards of

perchloroethylene -- better known as "perc."

Although a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

study states that dry cleaners have a 25% greater chance of dying

from cancer than other workers, Peter Gharap, a manager at Allan's

Dry Cleaning and Laundry in Burbank, isn't convinced perc is unsafe.

"I've been in the business for 19 years, and I think they're

exaggerating," he said. "Perc can be kind of dangerous [to breath in]

when it is hot and steaming, but when it is cold, there is no

danger."

He said his employees are safe from its vapors.

To replace the toxic solvent, alternative cleaning machines

ranging from wet cleaning -- similar to home washing machines -- to

hydro-carbon cleaning have been suggested. Gharap added that he

doesn't like them because they are not as effective at removing

stains.

Furthermore, Yong Yim, the owner of The Cleaning Store in Burbank,

estimates 20% of all laundry stains are unaffected by wet washing. He

did, however, make the transition from perc to a hydro-carbon

cleaning machine two years ago.

"Everyone says perc is better at cleaning, but I don't agree," he

said. "We have had no problems with hydro-carbon and the customers

like the quality."

Yim decided to make the switch after some light researching on

perc and, although he still questions whether it is harmful, he

decided not to take chances and switched machines.

Despite the noted health problems, the estimated costs is upwards

of $90,000 to replace the machinery.

"It won't hurt me, but with the economy going down nowadays, this

is just another problem for the industry," Yim said.

"That is why Friday morning, I am going to [the air district

governing board meeting in] Diamond Bar to protest the proposal."

If the proposal passes, perc would be banned by 2019.

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