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At the end of February, Environment and Climate Change Canada posted a notice about its “first-ever imprisonment” of a dry cleaner under the tetrachloroethylene regulations. For improper storage and handling practices, the dry-cleaner will face a four-month conditional sentence in the form of 75 days house arrest followed by a curfew and an additional 60 hours of community service.

We’ve noticed a trend of higher enforcement activity against dry cleaners in recent years. In October 2013, we reported that Ashford Cleaners was the first to pay the new, higher fines for offences under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), which came into effect on June 22, 2012.

Tetrachloroethylene, also known as PERC, is a dry-cleaning solvent and is listed as a toxic substance under CEPA. As reported on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website:

Effects resulting from acute (short term) high-level inhalation exposure of humans to tetrachloroethylene include irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction, and neurological effects such as reversible mood and behavioral changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and unconsciousness. The primary effects from chronic (long term) inhalation exposure are neurological, including impaired cognitive and motor neurobehavioral performance.  Tetrachloroethylene exposure may also cause adverse effects in the kidney, liver, immune system and hematologic system, and on development and reproduction. Studies of people exposed in the workplace have found associations with several types of cancer including bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma. EPA has classified tetrachloroethylene as likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

Alternatives to traditional dry-cleaning operations are now available in many cities. Next time you’ve got dry-cleaning to do, consider finding a shop that is using greener methods.

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