Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE, Perc) Levels in Residential Dry Cleaner Buildings in Diverse Communities in New York City

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE, Perc) Levels in Residential Dry Cleaner Buildings in Diverse Communities in New York City

Article excerpt

Fugitive tetrachloroethylene (PCE, perc) emissions from dry cleaners operating in apartment buildings can contaminate residential indoor air. In 1997, New York State and New York City adopted regulations to reduce and contain perc emissions from dry cleaners located in residential and other buildings. As part of a New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) study, indoor air perc levels were determined in 65 apartments located in 24 buildings in New York City where dry cleaners used perc on site. Sampling occurred during 2001-2003, and sampled buildings were dispersed across minority and nonminority as well as low-income and higher income neighborhoods. For the entire study area, the mean apartment perc level was 34 [micro]g/[m.sup.3], 10-fold lower than mean apartment levels of 340-360 [micro]g/[m.sup.3] documented before 1997. The maximum detected perc level was 5,000 [micro]g/[m.sup.3], 5-fold lower than the maximum of 25,000 [micro]g/[m.sup.3] documented before 1997. Despite these accomplishments, perc levels in 17 sampled apartments still exceeded the NYSDOH residential air guideline of 100 [micro]g/[m.sup.3], and perc levels in 4 sampled apartments exceeded 1,000 [micro]g/[m.sup.3]. Moreover, mean indoor air perc levels in minority neighborhoods (75 [micro]g/[m.sup.3]) were four times higher than in nonminority households (19 [micro]g/[m.sup.3]) and were > 10 times higher in low-income neighborhoods (256 [micro]g/[m.sup.3]) than in higher income neighborhoods (23 [micro]g/[m.sup.3]). Logistic regression suitable for clustered data (apartments within buildings) indicated that perc levels on floors 1-4 were significantly more likely to exceed 100 [micro]g/[m.sup.3] in buildings located in minority neighborhoods (odds ratio = 6.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.5-30.5) than in nonminority neighborhoods. Factors that may be contributing to the elevated perc levels detected, especially in minority and low-income neighborhoods, are being explored. Key words: dry cleaners, environmental justice, PCE, perc, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, tetrachloroethylene.

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Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), commonly referred to as perc, is the most frequently used solvent in the dry cleaning industry (Earnest 1996). In New York City and many other urban areas, dry cleaners using perc are sometimes colocated with residences, offices, retail businesses, or food establishments and emit fugitive perc emissions that contaminate indoor air throughout the buildings where they are located (Schreiber et al. 1993, 2002; Wallace et al. 1995). Perc levels in buildings with an operating dry cleaner, or simply near a dry cleaner, have ranged up to 55,000 [micro]g/[m.sup.3] (Altmann et al. 1995; Schreiber et al. 1993, 2002; Wallace et al. 1995).

In the workplace, air perc levels averaging about 30,000-80,000 [micro]g/[m.sup.3] have been associated with alterations in color vision and cognitive function (Gobba 2000), and levels of 1,800-2,400 [micro]/[m.sup.3] have been reported to decrease visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) (Schreiber et al. 2002). Residential indoor air perc levels averaging about 5,000 [micro]g/[m.sup.3] have been associated with small but statistically significant deficits in cognitive performance (e.g., deficits in short-term memory, decreased reaction time) (Altmann et al. 1995), and residential indoor air levels averaging about 700 [micro]g/[m.sup.3] have been associated with decreases in visual function, although decreases were not significant, and residents' function was still within a normal range (Schreiber et al. 2002; Storm and Mazor 2004).

These observations together have raised concern that residents of buildings where dry cleaners are using perc on site (i.e., residential dry cleaner buildings) may experience longterm, involuntary, and possibly harmful perc exposures. Based on this concern and evaluation of visual and other health effects associated with perc exposure, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) derived a health-based guideline of 100 [micro]g/[m. …

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