Perchloroethylene (PCE) is a highly utilized solvent in the dry cleaning industry because of its cleaning effectiveness and relatively low cost to consumers. According to the 2006 U.S. Census, approximately 28,000 dry cleaning operations used PCE as their principal cleaning agent. Widespread use of PCE is problematic because of its adverse impacts on human health and environmental quality. As PCE use is curtailed, effective alternatives must be analyzed for their toxicity and impacts to human health and the environment. Potential alternatives to PCE in dry cleaning include dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether (DPnB) and dipropylene glycol tert-butyl ether (DPtB), both promising to pose a relatively smaller risk. To evaluate these two alternatives to PCE, we established and scored performance criteria, including chemical toxicity, employee and customer exposure levels, impacts on the general population, costs of each system, and cleaning efficacy. The scores received for PCE were 5, 5, 3, 5, 3, and 3, respectively, and DPnB and DPtB scored 3, 1, 2, 2, 4, and 4, respectively. An aggregate sum of the performance criteria yielded a favorably low score of "16" for both DPnB and DPtB compared to "24" for PCE. We conclude that DPnB and DPtB are preferable dry cleaning agents, exhibiting reduced human toxicity and a lesser adverse impact on human health and the environment compared to PCE, with comparable capital investments, and moderately higher annual operating costs.
- Dipropylene glycol n-butyl ether
- Dipropylene glycol tert-butyl ether
- Dry cleaning
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
- Chemical Health and Safety