Research/studies Workplace exposures Chemical

Dry-cleaning workers need to wear PPE, NIOSH says


Washington – Workers at some dry-cleaning businesses do not wear proper personal protective equipment and as a result are exposed to cleaning solvents, according to a NIOSH report.

Researchers observed work practices and took air and skin samples during investigations in 2013 and 2014 at four dry cleaners that used two alternative solvents – high-flashpoint hydrocarbon mixture or butylal – a Feb. 24 blog post from the agency states.

The highest concentrations of the solvents in the air occurred during loading and unloading of machines and when fabrics were pressed. Workers had solvents on their hands from reusing gloves or not using proper glove material, NIOSH said. Additionally, workers did not wear adequate PPE – such as eye protection and gloves – while they mixed butylal-based solvent with a fabric pretreatment, sprayed the mixture and cleaned waste from machines.

NIOSH offered the following guidance for workers:

  • Wear eye protection and chemical-resistant gloves while pre-treating fabrics and handling waste.
  • Wash hands and exposed skin after any contact with chemicals.
  • Wash hands after removing gloves.

Butylal’s long-term health effects on humans are unknown, and no occupational exposure limits exist.