Online Program

A multijurisdictional, collaborative approach to preventing perchloroethylene exposures in the dry cleaning industry

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Stephen Whittaker, PhD, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program, Public Health-Seattle & King County, Seattle, WA
Most dry cleaners use perchloroethylene (PERC) as their dry cleaning solvent, despite the well-known human health and environmental impacts associated with this chlorinated hydrocarbon.

Our needs assessment revealed that dry cleaning in King County, Washington is dominated by Korean-owned, family-run businesses.  Employees are typically Hispanic.  PERC is used by 69% of businesses and aging PERC dry cleaning machines (23% are >15 years old) are prone to leakage.  Although many dry cleaners are considering purchasing newer solvent technology, 76% suggested that financial barriers prevented them from upgrading.

Based on this information, we have been pursuing an innovative, multi-agency collaborative strategy to address a common goal: mitigating PERC release and exposures.  Grounded in King County’s Equity & Social Justice ordinance, the approach is designed to avoid the catastrophic economic and social consequences for many owners and employees that would result from an outright ban on PERC.  These diverse strategies are designed to ensure beneficial impacts on the determinants of health in workers and the general public.  Examples of these collaborative strategies include engaging the community to address their needs and concerns; identifying suitable PERC leak detectors and distributing free units to dry cleaners; providing grants to replace PERC machines with new equipment; providing technical assistance and education; conducting exposure monitoring on alternative solvents to PERC; providing guidance on exposure controls; characterizing the waste streams from PERC and non-PERC machines; facilitating proper disposal of hazardous materials; arranging low-interest loans for business owners; and providing recognition for environmental leaders in the industry.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Diversity and culture
Environmental health sciences
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe the challenges associated with improving the health & safety climate in an industry dominated by an immigrant population with frequently limited English language skills. Describe the economic and social consequences that would result from a ban on the use of PERC in dry cleaning Describe an approach to improving public- and environmental- health by developing partnerships with government agencies and community partners

Keyword(s): Asian Americans, Occupational Health and Safety

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted original research to learn about the principal environmental-, public health-, and occupational- issues facing the dry cleaning community and am participating in a multiagency workgroup focused on mitigating exposures to PERC. I am the principal investigator involved in coordinating the multiagency strategy.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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