Vijayawada: The smell from dry-cleaned garments might be coming from a dangerous chemical residue, which users may unwittingly inhale.
Dry-cleaning, the process of cleaning garments without water, typically utilises a liquid chemical solvent to clean garments, especially those that are delicate.
While different chemicals are used, perchloroethylene, also known as tetrachloroethylene (PERC), is most favoured by dry-cleaners around the world. PERC is favoured as it is non-flammable, can be reused, and does not cause garments to shrink or dyes to bleed.
Despite its many advantages, PERC is a problematic chemical as it has been found to be toxic to humans and the environment.
Samples of clothes collected from dry cleaners in New Delhi and Kolkata as part of a study recently were found to be having PERC. Inquiries with popular dry-cleaners in Vijayawada, including a newly opened hi-end dry cleaning outlet, confirmed that they use PERC which they procure from Chennai.
The permissible concentration for PERC should not exceed 0.7 mg per litre in waste water. Dry-cleaned clothes that were tested in a certified laboratory were found to have PERC ranging from 1.3 mg/kg to 101 mg/kg.
“In India, where the dry-cleaning industry is growing, no work has been done on PERC exposure of workers or PERC residues in dry-cleaned clothes. The purpose of the study was to understand PERC usage and practices in the industry and to assess if there were PERC residues in garments that were subjected to dry-cleaning,” said Ms Priti Banthia Mahesh, chief programme coordinator of Toxics Link, an Indian environmental research and advocacy organisation.
Ms Banthia Mahesh told this newspaper that the results of the survey conduted in Delhi and Kolkata indicated that though all facilities do not use PERC as the primary solvent, a large number of them do.
“The varying concentration might be due to factors such as material and thickness. PERC is retained in dry-cleaned clothes and there is a real possibility of exposure to customers, which could include children and the elderly. The fact that there is hardly any framework to regulate this, except in relation to waste discharge, raises a concern,” she said....