By Brian Clark Howard
PERC, long used as a solvent in dry cleaning, can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, and irritations of the skin, eyes, nose and throat in some people. It has also been linked, in high doses, to ground water contamination as well as liver and kidney damage and cancer in humans. But now there's a non-toxic alternative
. More and more dry cleaners are going organic, using a food-grade level of carbon dioxide instead. Carbon dioxide is normally a gas at room temperature. But put under high pressure, it converts into a liquid and can act as a carrier of biodegradable soaps in much the same way that water does in a washing machine. And when the dry cleaning cycle stops, it turns back into a gas, much of which is reused. Clothes cleaned in this organic process dry instantly, are cool to the touch and have no odor. It's better for the consumer as well as those who work in the local store and the organic cleaning plant. An added plus: there's no shortage of carbon dioxide in the world, and these machines operate at lower temperatures, saving energy.