Which is cleaner?

The next time you retrieve that suit from the dry cleaner's, consider that you may be picking up more than you dropped off. Clinging to most freshly dry-cleaned clothing are traces of perchloroethylene, a chlorine- based compound used by 90 percent of all dry cleaners. Listed by the EPA as a hazardous air pollutant and a "probable human carcinogen," perc has also been linked to neurological damage and reproductive disorders.

The largest consumers of perc, dry cleaners use an estimated 250 million pounds of the compound annually. While exposure to contaminated garments poses minimal health risks, a more serious threat from perc exists in our air, food, and water. Both the production and incineration fo this organochlorine create hundreds of toxic byproducts, and flushing perc into the sewer system contaminates groundwater supplies. Environmentalists are clamoring for a phase-out of this dirty cleaning solvent.

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The enviros offer an alternative to perc, dubbed "GreenClean," based on water, natural soaps, head, steam, and skilled labor. In addition to eco-dry cleaning's obvious benefit--it doesn't pump toxins into the environment--GreenClean offers a number of advantages, according to Greenpeace analysts:

Better Results:
EPA data and consumer surveys show GreenClean equals or outperforms perc.
More Jobs:
Because GreenClean relies on individual treatment of garments, it requires a 21 percent increase in labor--a cost offset by reductions in other operating expenses, such as chemical costs and hazardous waste disposal fees.
Increased Profit:
EPA numbers show that GreenClean operations require a 41 percent lower investment than traditional setups and yield a 5 percent higher profit.