This Dangerous Chemical for Babies is a Common Household Occurrence

dry cleaning toxins are toxic for children- primal baby

Dry cleaning.

Most people use it from time to time and some depend on it on a daily basis. It is convenient. It’s affordable. But it is also dangerous for us and our children.

Perc (or tetrachloroethylene) is the chemical used in up to 85% of dry cleaning facilities to provide us with crisp, ready-to-wear clothes.

But perc doesn’t just clean our clothes. It also remains on textile fibers and it releases into the air for weeks after we bring our clothes back home. The more dry cleaned clothes we bring in, the more perc is released into the air in our home and breathed in by us and our kids.

The fabric makes a difference

Not all fabrics respond in the same way to perc. Thanks to the school project of a student, we know that polyester accumulates the most perc in its fibers after a single dry cleaning cycle. Wool, on the other hand, accumulates perc as time goes by, but it quickly (in 6 dry cleaning cycles) surpasses polyester´s wildest perc dreams.

By the way, shouldn’t we find out about these facts from large national studies and not by occasional school projects?

We bring perc, through our dry cleaned clothes, into our homes without ever receiving a warning about how it affects us and our children.

And perc has a dark side that most people ignore.

Health effects of perc

Perc is a very dangerous chemical, considered to cause cancer by several public health authorities. Dry cleaning workers are advised by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety to handle perc as a substance that causes cancer, aka a carcinogen. The National Toxicology Program designates it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” and the EPA classifies it as a possible human carcinogen. As you can see, we have plenty of indications that perc is nothing to play with.

Exposure to perc can be both acute and chronic, with nonspecific symptoms ranging from headaches, dizziness, behavioral changes and lack of coordination (neurological & cognitive effects), to irritated throat and eyes and even liver and kidney damage.

Above all, perc is recognized in public literature as a powerful neurotoxin. If these effects make an adult sick, how can a child or a baby handle and express the discomfort she is feeling? And because the symptoms are so nonspecific, it is practically impossible to know why your baby is being so fussy or your toddler is not himself.

And lastly, early exposure to perc (during pregnancy or babyhood) has been found to increase by 50-60% the risk drug and alcohol abuse later in life and also the risk for psychiatric illness. Seriously, we have too many reasons to entirely avoid bringing dry cleaned clothes into our home and our life.

The truth is that we have seen such effects of several toxins that are allowed in our homes. Thankfully, most of the times we have several ways to reduce or eliminate our little ones’ exposure to developmental poisons, when we know where to look.


higher risk for drug and alcohol addiction later in life

Tips to reduce exposure to perc

If you must dry clean, try to follow these suggestions as much as possible:

  1. Leave dry-cleaned clothes (remove the plastic wrap) outdoors to let the toxins gas off in fresh air for a couple of weeks. Don’t bring them in your home because it contaminates indoor air.
  2. Avoid dry cleaning wool clothes because they easily accumulate perc in their fibers over time.
  3. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, be very aware of what you wear. Avoid wearing dry-cleaned clothes or getting exposed to perc vapors during these times because your child is highly sensitive to this toxin.
  4. Breastfeeding moms: breast milk is very high in fat. And perc is a fat-soluble substance which will accumulate heavily in breast milk, putting nursing infants in danger.
  5. Professional carpet cleaning services use the same dangerous chemicals, so avoid using them at all costs, especially if your baby will be crawling on them. If unavoidable, be sure to leave them outdoors to off gas for at least a couple of weeks.
  6. If your carpets are made of wool, there will be no way to get rid of perc after having them professionally cleaned.