Dutch dry cleaners "are health hazards"

Most retail establishments polluting dwellings with perchloroethylene, survey finds

Many clothes dry cleaning shops pose a health hazard to people living nearby, the Dutch environment ministry's inspectorate for environmental protection has claimed. In a survey of 57 outlets, investigators found significant concentrations of the chlorinated solvent perchloroethylene in dwellings next to or above dry cleaners. The ministry will check the remaining 150 dry cleaners in the Netherlands following the survey results.

According to the investigation, even the safest 30% of apartments adjoining dry cleaners had perchloroethylene concentrations of 250 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3), which is the safety limit for life-long exposure. Concentrations of 250-1,500 mg/m3 were found in a further 32% of apartments. The environment ministry plans to require dry cleaners to reduce emissions within one year.

The final 38% of apartments had even higher concentrations, right up to 17,500 mg/m3 in the worst case. Such high concentrations require immediate closure of the dry cleaners responsible and work to reduce emissions, the ministry says.

Dry cleaning industry association Netex criticised the survey findings as unreliable. Measuring methods used by the government were not valid, the organisation said, and the safety norms it used were not recognised either by the law or "prominent toxicologists".

Follow Up:
Dutch environment ministry, tel: +31 70 339 3939, and press release; Netex, tel: +31 344 652 442.

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