Clothes collected from dry cleaning stores should not be worn or put in closets immediately, to avoid inhaling the slightly toxic organic solvents which might still be on them, New Taipei City’s (新北市) Environmental Protection Bureau said.
Considering that many people send clothes such as sweaters or leather items to dry cleaning stores during spring cleaning or the Lunar New Year holiday, the bureau suggests that clothes brought home after dry cleaning should be removed from the plastic covers and hung up to air outdoors for at least a day before wearing.
The dry cleaning solvents most commonly used by Taiwanese dry cleaning companies are tetrachloroethylene (also known as perchloroethylene, PCE) and petroleum dry cleaning solvents, and about 95 percent of smaller traditional dry cleaning stores use D40 and D60 — petroleum dry cleaning solvents that are said to be friendlier to the environment, the bureau said.
However, the bureau said that by taking clothes out of the dryers or hanging them out to dry, 5 percent to 20 percent of the organic solvents are absorbed into the air, but if the clothes are put into plastic covers quickly, excessive amounts of low toxic organic solvents may remain on the clothing, potentially causing damage to the liver after long-term exposure.
The bureau said that although many dry cleaners in the US and Europe now use PCE as dry cleaning solvent because of its stronger detergency power, it is listed as a regulated toxic chemical substance under the management of environmental protection agencies in Taiwan, and dry cleaners are required to use machines that can recycle up to 99 percent of the solvent.
Excessive exposure to the solvent may cause increased chance of lung cancer, skin cancer and cervical cancer, it said, adding that at present, there are five stores in New Taipei City that use PCE as a dry cleaning solvent.
If people detect abnormal odors or oil vapors in the air, they can report to the bureau through the national public nuisance service line or the bureau’s pollution complaint system, and the agencies will send inspectors to examine the situation as soon as possible, it said, adding that people should avoid buying clothes that need dry cleaning to achieve a non-toxic household environment.