Perchloroethylene (PERC) – A Harmful Chemical Used in Cleaning Products

When you use cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals, you are actually harming your own body and the environment. You can avoid these harmful effects by using non-toxic cleaning products. Always check the label before buying a cleaning product. A toxic cleaning product uses harmful chemicals like Perchloroethylene (PERC), Formaldehyde, Ammonia, 2-Butoxyethanol, Chlorine and Sodium Hydroxide. In this article, you will learn about the harmful effects of Perchloroethylene (PERC), a chemical that is often used in dry cleaning. 

Though adequate information is not available to come to a conclusion, Perchloroethylene (PERC) can have carcinogenic potential. A carcinogen is a substance that can lead to the formation of cancer. There are some small epidemiological or animal studies that show that it is a harmful chemical. 

It is a non-flammable, colorless liquid that has an ether odor. To prevent its decomposition, esters, epoxides or amines are added to Perchloroethylene.  Metal degreasing and commercial dry cleaning use this harmful chemical. It is also used in some cleaning products that you use in your house. 

When inhaled, this chemical causes neurobehavioral effects and irritation. Direct contact with Perchloroethylene (PERC) causes erythema, blistering and skin burns. Your skin may also absorb this chemical. If you are a healthy individual, your lungs slowly eliminate Perchloroethylene (PERC). Your body metabolizes a small amount of this chemical.  

Studies on Animals 

Scientists studied the effects of this chemical on rabbits, rats and guinea pigs. These animals were subjected to repeated exposure to perchloroethylene vapor. Scientists observed that this exposure made some pathological changes in the livers of these animals. No serious effects were observed in rabbits, monkeys and rats after six months of exposure. On the other hand, this exposure caused slight fatty degeneration and increased kidney and liver weight in guinea pigs.


Scientists tested the carcinogenicity of this chemical on animals including rats and mice. This caused the production of hepatocellular carcinomas in both rats and mice. No tumor incidences were observed in rats. However, the exposure increased leukemia incidence. 

Human Studies

Excessive perchloroethylene exposure is not good for your kidney, liver, lungs, skin, eyes, mucous membranes and central nervous system. Occupational exposure can cause light narcosis, headache, dizziness and unconsciousness. 

According to a controlled study, one hour of exposure to 106ppm perchloroethylene did not have negative effects on the six subjects. However, when the concentration was 216ppm, the exposure caused slight dizziness and eye irritation. 

Scientists also observed the neurobehavioural effects of exposure to Perchloroethylene (PERC) vapors. Subjects were exposed to 100ppm of perchloroethylene vapor for 5 days. When they took part in a coordination test, a slight decrement in performance was observed.

It is a chemical that you should avoid. However, it is used in some cleaning products. Switch to non-toxic cleaning products. This is good for your health and the environment.