I-Team: Dry cleaners go "green" - FOX 32 News Chicago

I-Team: Dry cleaners go "green"

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTA -

Wherever you go, you can see businesses these days going "green." We carry recycled grocery bags, buy organic food and wear eco-friendly clothes.

Even the dry cleaning industry, known for using hazardous chemicals, has started going green. But is it as advertised?

Good old-fashioned soap and water doesn't always do the job. Sometimes the only way to get certain fabrics clean is a chemical bath at the dry cleaner. For a long time the industry dipped your shirts and slacks in "perchloroethylene" better known as "perc."

"It's a known carcinogen. It's a ground water contaminant," said Peter Sinsheimer, UCLA Green Products Expert.

It's just not good for us, says Peter Sinsheimer, a UCLA professor who studies dry cleaning chemicals and their environmental impact. The industry is moving away from perc and now advertises more "green methods."

You see it all over metro Atlanta. A perfect example is in the city's Morningside neighborhood. The FOX 5 I-Team found in a three-block stretch, three dry cleaners. Two of them advertise they're "non-toxic" cleaners. On hidden camera, they even take it further.

Two shops told us they got rid of perc and now use another cleaning method. It's a hydrocarbon process, but is it "eco-friendly?"

Cindy Liebus at the Federal Trade Commission says that phrase doesn't actually mean anything.

"So, when you see the term green in an advertisement or on someone's shop it doesn't really mean that they are safer or less toxic," said Cindy Liebus, Atlanta FTC.

But she says "organic" and "non-toxic" do mean something. And Peter Sinsheimer says those words don't fit with hydrocarbon, a petroleum-based solvent.

He says the chemical is actually a "toxin" and "flammable." The EPA labels it an "air pollutant."

So what's wrong with calling hydrocarbon cleaning organic? Well, if you were in chemistry class, then sure, carbon is an organic compound. But most consumers think of organic to mean chemical-free, which it's not.

"If you're looking for something organic that is environmentally-friendly, then hydrocarbon is not what you're going to be looking for," said Sinsheimer.

Greenwashing, making green claims that don't hold up, is a nationwide issue. Environmental officials in Santa Monica, California sanctioned dry cleaners for making green claims they couldn't prove.

Then the industry jumped in. A trade newsletter warned dry cleaners against using phrases like "organic" and "non-toxic." "Be careful," it says "...of the advertising you use and the message you are sending."

"We want to be providing accurate information to consumer so they can make the best choice possible for themselves," said Sinsheimer.

Watch FOX 5 I-Team Dana Fowle's full report by clicking on the video above

Additional resources:

- US Environmental Protection Agency
- Green America
- The Reclaimer: Dry Cleaners Who Care

  • I-Team Story ArchiveMore>>

  • I-Team Investigation

    Former Douglas Co. D.A. office manager indicted

    Former Douglas Co. D.A. office manager indicted

    Sunday, July 27 2014 3:24 PM EDT2014-07-27 19:24:49 GMT
    There are major new developments today in the state investigation of the Douglas County District Attorney's office. Tammy Agan, the former office manager, has been indicted on 58 counts of theft and making false statements.
    There are major new developments today in the state investigation of the Douglas County District Attorney's office. Tammy Agan, the former office manager, has been indicted on 58 counts of theft and making false statements.
  • Whistleblower Seeks Sanctions Against Attorney General's Office

    Whistleblower Seeks Sanctions Against Attorney General's Office

    Friday, July 25 2014 9:59 PM EDT2014-07-26 01:59:29 GMT
    In a letter, obtained exclusively by the Fox 5 I-Team, former Ethics director Stacey Kalberman's plans to seek sanctions against the state Attorney General's office.
    More controversy involving the State Ethics Commission. In a letter, obtained exclusively by the Fox 5 I-Team, former Ethics director Stacey Kalberman's plans to seek sanctions against the state Attorney General's office.
  • FOX 5 I-Team Investigation

    State proposes action for home elevator safety

    State proposes action for home elevator safety

    Friday, July 25 2014 2:12 PM EDT2014-07-25 18:12:46 GMT

    The state is inching closer to closing a gap that should make residential elevators safer for children .It was the I-Team's stories about children nationwide being hurt that prompted the state to propose an emergency amendment to the state code.

    The state is inching closer to closing a gap that should make residential elevators safer for children .It was the I-Team's stories about children nationwide being hurt that prompted the state to propose an emergency amendment to the state code.

  • Contact the FOX 5 I-Team

    * denotes required fields

    We're sorry, but only one entry is allowed per person.
    Thank you for your continued interest.

    Thanks for contacting FOX 5.  To reach our newsroom by phone, please call (404) 898-0100.

  • Good Day ArchiveMore>>

  • Back to School Jamboree with Hosea Feed The Hungry

    Back to School Jamboree with Hosea Feed The Hungry

    Hosea Feed the Hungry will host their annual Back to School Jamboree on Sunday, July 13, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at Turner Field. Children will receive a backpack filled with school supplies.

    Hosea Feed the Hungry will host their annual Back to School Jamboree on Sunday, July 13, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at Turner Field. Children will receive a backpack filled with school supplies.

  • Stars of 'Get On Up' The Story of James Brown, visit Good Day

    Stars of 'Get On Up' The Story of James Brown, visit Good Day

    Friday, July 25 2014 9:55 AM EDT2014-07-25 13:55:46 GMT
    In his follow-up to the four-time Academy Award®-nominated blockbuster The Help, Tate Taylor directs 42’s Chadwick Boseman as James Brown in GET ON UP.
    In his follow-up to the four-time Academy Award®-nominated blockbuster The Help, Tate Taylor directs 42’s Chadwick Boseman as James Brown in GET ON UP.
  • Good Day Atlanta

    Pike Nurseries: Attracting Hummingbirds

    Pike Nurseries: Attracting Hummingbirds

    Friday, July 25 2014 9:05 AM EDT2014-07-25 13:05:09 GMT
    Hummingbirds and other winged wildlife can add beautiful color and movement to a garden. You can enjoy the stunning sights and sounds of these featured friends, while also helping them access food, shelter, water and sunlight with hummingbird gardening.
    Hummingbirds and other winged wildlife can add beautiful color and movement to a garden. You can enjoy the stunning sights and sounds of these featured friends, while also helping them access food, shelter, water and sunlight with hummingbird gardening.
Powered by WorldNow

205 N. Michigan Avenue
Ground Floor
Chicago, IL 60601
Station Operator: (312) 565-5532
Newsroom: (312)565-5533

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices