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The Dangers of Dry-Cleaning Chemicals

There are quite a few industries where gloves are commonly thought of, such as automotive, janitorial, foodservice, and beauty to name a few. However, there are several industries where glove use may not be as commonly considered. Those who work in the dry-cleaning industry need disposable gloves to ensure safety as they frequently come in contact with the harsh chemical, perchloroethylene.

Perchloroethylene is a non-flammable, colorless unpredictable organic compound frequently used in dry cleaning applications. It can also be known as tetrachloroethylene, PCE and PERC. Use when dry cleaning fabrics is the most common for PERC, but it can also be used to manufacture other chemical-based products. Those who work in dry cleaning facilities and textile manufacturing are the most likely to be exposed to the chemical.

What’s the risk of dry-cleaning chemicals?

Perchloroethylene is the most common solvent used when dry cleaning which poses serious health risks to those employees coming into contact. If the employees regularly breathe in the vapors or have skin contact with the substance, they can experience a variety of different side effects. Exposure can immediately lead to dizziness, blistering or skin irritation. However, over time exposure has the potential to cause lack of coordination, memory loss or delayed reaction times. Some studies have indicated that PERC can lead to increased risk for several types of cancer.

Numerous organizations, including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have classified PERC as a possible human carcinogen. Those employees with heart, liver, kidney or lung diseases are at heightened risk of the effects while coming into contact with PERC.

Dry cleaning employees may be exposed to high levels of PERC during different points of their daily responsibilities, like when loading clothes into a machine because that is when chemically contaminated air is most likely to be circulated. In addition, removing clothes prior to a finished cycle, transferring items, cleaning lint traps or changing solvent filters can all expose employees to the chemical.

How can employers combat PERC exposure?

The majority of PERC contributed health risks are cause by inhalation the chemical also has the potential to cause irritation after direct contact with the skin.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has workplace regulations in place to limit exposure. Employers should adhere to these regulations in order to protect their employees. Having the right protection on hand is a large part of adhering to these regulations.

Industrial-grade latex and nitrile disposable gloves can provide protection to employees who handle PERC from skin contact, face masks can also help minimize potential respiratory exposure. It is important to ensure the employees wearing face masks have masks rated N95 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to ensure a high level of protection.

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