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Calif. Board Delays Solvent Vote

November 2, 2002

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DIAMOND BAR, Calif. (AP) _ Southern California air quality regulators put off for at least a month a decision on whether to limit use of the most common dry cleaning solvent because of health concerns.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District had been expected to vote Friday on a proposal to make the greater Los Angeles region the first in the nation to ban perchloroethylene, or perc. The AQMD staff had recommended the board approve the ban, but board members introduced two alternative measures instead and delayed a possible vote until Dec. 6.

Neither of the two motions under consideration are as strict as the staff proposal, which called for a complete phase-out of the chemical by 2019.

Board member Cynthia Verdugo-Peralta, the governor’s appointee to the panel, said the staff proposal was not fair or equitable to dry cleaners because of its financial burden.

She introduced a motion backed by the dry cleaning industry that would allow five years to switch over to the most technologically advanced perc machines _ but not end use of the solvent.

Another motion by board member and Los Angeles Councilman Hal Bernson would require cleaners to replace worn out perc equipment with non-perc technology without any time limit.

More than 500 dry cleaners from across Southern California showed up for Friday’s meeting, many wearing black armbands in protest.

Some closed their shops for the day, said Shinn Young, who has owned a Fountain Valley dry cleaning business for 11 years.

``I will live another 50 years. They say perc is a cancer-causing chemical but I don’t believe it,″ the 55-year old man said. ``They’re pushing new technology that’s not ready for use. If they had technology that was ready, people wouldn’t mind changing. But it’s not ready.″

Agency officials say perc is among the six major airborne toxic substances in the greater Los Angeles area, which is home to nearly half the state’s population. Studies have linked it to cancers of the lung, cervix, esophagus and bladder in dry cleaning workers.

Scientists estimate the cancer risk posed by long-term exposure is between 20 and 140 in 1 million.

The AQMD has been regulating perc for 20 years. Since 1994, regulations have led to an 80 percent reduction in the amount released into the atmosphere. For the past two years, the agency has been considering a total ban, which would be the first in the nation and could be copied elsewhere.

``It still presents a health risk we’re concerned with,″ Jill Whynot, planning and rules manager for the clean-air agency, said in a presentation to the board.

The AQMD has pushed alternative technologies, but many dry cleaners said those technologies are unproven and more costly than perc.

Representatives of the region’s 2,200 dry cleaners, owned largely by Korean-American immigrants, claim the regulation would force many out of business.


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