Mpls Dry Cleaner Reducing Exposure to Toxic Chemical

Updated: 04/12/2013 6:23 AM By: Beth McDonough

We're leaders in environmental and public health in Minnesota.

Minneapolis, in particular, is.  It's the first city in the state enticing dry cleaners to voluntarily stop using a certain toxin. 

It's called perc.  And if you take your clothes to a dry cleaners, chances are you've been exposed at some point.

It's the unmistakable smell.

Over-exposure to percloroethylene overwhelmed Tyler Avestini at one of his dry cleaning businesses, "makes you dizzy, almost like a drug."

Which is why Avestini went perc-free a few months ago.

The EPA warns perc is an invisible enemy, a hazardous air pollutant and likely carcinogen.

Employees can come in contact with the toxin working with clothes, emissions can be released in the air.  Plus, environmentally conscious customers like Michael Turner understand his risk of exposure to the chemical on his clothes, "I rip off the bag, I rip off the plastic all the time."

Symptoms include:  dizziness, headaches, nausea and potentially kidney or liver damage.

Colonial Cleaners in South Minneapolis is one of a handful, including Avestopolis, making the switch from perc to green-cleaning silicone based methods.  "It's better for the environment, better for the customer, better for us in here, the cost is cheaper," according to Paula Carrington of Colonial Cleaners.

But replacing machines and chemicals comes at a high cost, too high for some shops.

"A lot of these places are quintessential mom and pop shops so we wanted to help them make that switch from perc to safer/cleaner alternatives," says Patrick Hanlon with Minneapolis Environmental Services.

Hoping to help solve the solvent problem, Minneapolis is offering grant money to cover the cost of new equipment and chemicals.  About a dozen cleaners in the city still use perc.  It's completely legal.  The city is hoping this incentive also makes it a thing of the past.

The list of perc-free cleaners in Minneapolis:

Colonial Dry Cleaners, Peter Pan, Hiawatha, Uptown, Prestige Cleaning Center, Sew Biz Tailoring, Mulberry's Garment Care, St. Croix/White Way.

Minneapolis Air Quality Study