Since the mid-1930s, PERC, also known as perchloroethylene, PCE, tetrachloroethylene, and tetrachloroethene, has been an effective organic solvent that has mainly been used in the dry cleaning industry and to a lesser extent, in metal degreasing. PERC was an ideal dry cleaning solvent because of its excellent cleaning power, stable, non-flammable properties, and gentleness towards many articles of clothing. Many of the qualities that made PERC a desirable dry cleaning solvent also contributed to its usefulness in vapor degreasing. However, there were concerns that workers who routinely breathed excessive amounts of the solvent vapor or spilled PERC on their skin were at risk of developing health problems. In 1993, research data had led many organizations to believe that PERC was a potential human carcinogen; as a result, California and the EPA decided to begin regulating the use of PERC by establishing a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) and producing advisory content concerning workplace exposure reduction. The current Occupational Safety and Health Administration PEL for PERC is 100 parts per million (8-hour TWA).
Although the dry cleaning industry has refined the control of PERC and created new equipment that has much lower exposure than older models, there is still a necessity to reduce employee exposure to the solvent in order to prevent health hazards that could result from long-term exposure.
Possible health effects of PERC Exposure
- Dizziness, drowsiness, and loss of coordination
- Mild loss of memory, visual perception, and reaction time after several years of exposure
- Redness and blistering of the skin after extended dermal contact.
Primary Sources of PERC Exposure
- Loading dirty garments into the machine (when perc-contaminated air is displaced and forced out of the machine)
- Removing garments, especially thick articles, before the drying cycle is completed
- Transferring solvent-laden clothes into the dryer
- Lint and button filter cleaning
- Raking out the still (distillation unit residue)
- Solvent filter changes
- Water separator maintenance
- Hazardous waste management
Replacement: Safe for You and Your Employees!
With increasing regulations regarding PERC usage, the best solution to keep employees safe and prevent compliance headaches is replace PERC and use FluoSolv! FluoSolv is a solvent degreaser that is also commonly used for metal degreasing. If our existing blends of FluoSolv aren’t right for you, then contact us to create a custom blend that fits your needs! There are no charges for samples (up to 1-gallon), so check our FluoSolv page or give us a call today!
Unfortunately, the answer to the question posed as the title of this blog is not only a resounding yes, but chemical usage is a huge safety concern in the United States. Why is this so? Because companies are still having chemical spill leaks and spillage accidents that lead to health issues and safety concerns for people within a defined proximity of the spill, as well as an unforeseen negative environmental impact in a massive scale. To help better define why chemical usage is such a huge safety concern in the United States, you need just look at the recent massive chemical spill in West Virginia as an example. In January, there was a large chemical spill in West Virginia that contaminated the water supply of over three hundred thousand West Virginians. If you read or watch the news, then you most likely heard about the chemical spill, and its dire affects on multiple West Virginia towns, which started in the state’s capital, Charleston. People went weeks without being able to use their home’s running water, or the water from the local municipalities. They had to buy bottled water from stores, but because of the large scale of the chemical spill, these lines were several hours long since so many people needed water. This subsequently led to all the local stores running out of bottled water, which forced people to drive many hours to other cities, even states, for water. The alternative? Press on with no water for nourishment or for cleaning.
This disaster also brought to light another serious problem – because the substances in the chemical used is extremely toxic in large quantities, it wreaked havoc on a grand scale. The problem here – and it has been a heated issue with several environmental protection agencies for quite some time – is that federal regulatory committees do not conduct enough testing on chemicals (it is estimated that close to one hundred thousand types of chemicals exist, of which only 200 have been tested in the last three decades), safety protocols, and disease prevention mandates set forth by federal regulatory agencies are far too lax, and enforcement of set policies is near non existent due to so many industrial organization using so many different types of chemicals. Also compounding the issues is that people, along with these federal watchdog agencies are only alerted to safety issues pertaining to chemical usage literally by accident, when a chemical spill of massive proportions happens.
Environmental protection agencies need help, and part of that help can come from industrial businesses holding themselves more accountable for the types of chemical used at their facilities. Instead of taking the chances that a spill or leak will likely not occur, implement procedures that reduces your company’s chemical usage. Another option is to begin using eco friendly, green alternative chemicals, so when an accident like this occurs, it does not have nearly the same environmental impact as would a toxic-laced chemical. If your industrial business decides to remain ignorant or ambivalent to your pending chemical hazard, you will have no one to blame should a leak or spill occur.
Contact Ecolink today to find out how their Chemical Management can help your business reduce their chemical use, while saving money and improving safety for workers and the environment.