July 26, 2009

Dry cleaning solvent a danger in Illinois

Use of the dry cleaning solvent perchloroethylene at certain Illinois sites has left state residents facing cancer and other ailments, scientists say.

Scientists have linked exposure to the chemical commonly used at dry cleaning establishments with ailments like cancer, neurological problems and liver damage, the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday.

While the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has targeted nearly 500 Illinois sites for perchloroethylene cleanup efforts, more than 400 sites in the state are suspected of being polluted.

The Tribune said the majority of those state sites in need of cleanup efforts are in Chicago and the city's suburbs.

H. Patrick Eriksen, the administrator of a cleaners' insurance fund created by state officials a decade ago, told the Tribune the problems with perchloroethylene came from a lack of state guidelines and sloppy use of the chemical.

You have to remember that for years there weren't any guidelines for how to dispose of PCE, said Eriksen, whose fund was created to help in the cleanup efforts. People have told me they would use a little perc at the end of the day to clean the floors, or they'd hose it down the drain and it would leak out of sewer mains.