Dry Cleaners Face Higher Cancer Risk
healthwindows.com, spring 2001

Next time you take your unmentionables in for dry cleaning, have pity on the poor guy or gal behind the counter. New research finds that dry-cleaning workers have a greater risk of dying from certain types of cancer.

The study, from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), analyzed a group of 1,708 dry-cleaning workers. The workers had been previously identified as having been exposed to the dry-cleaning chemical perchloroethylene (PCE), a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen. Many had also been exposed to Stoddard solvent, a petroleum-based dry-cleaning solvent.

Investigators found that the dry-cleaning workers had a 25 percent higher rate of cancer deaths overall compared with the general population. The 625 study participants exposed only to PCE also had higher rates of diseases such as tongue cancer, ischemic heart disease and urinary calculi. The researchers also observed a significant excess of esophageal cancer among individuals who had worked only with PCE, for more than five years, and who were first exposed at least 20 years before death.