The presentation looked at what might happen if the French drycleaning industry had to replace perc. A panel of speakers, representing French National Textile Care Confederation (CTTN), the Federation of Textile Care Paris (CFET-IDF) in conjunction with the French Medical Insurance System (CRAM) and the various municipal water districts, analysed both perc and the three main alternatives.

In each case, the seminar gave technical data and explained how each is treated under the French 23-45 law, which regulates drycleaning operations and is strictly enforced.

The audience still seemed to be strongly in favour of the continued use of perc and the government agencies concentrated on how the use of perc is and will be controlled in the future. At present there is no indication of a ban.

Hydrocarbon solvents were presented as a viable alternative for their relative lack of toxicity, their ease of use and their cost. However the authorities have expressed concern about the flammability both in use and in storage – particularly as most French drycleaning businesses are housed in co-residential buildings. Fire safety rules vary according to area and it is up to each city, municipality or district fire marshal to decide whether hydrocarbon can be used.

D5 sillicone has a lower solvency than perc or hydrocarbon and could therefore be a good choice for beaded, sequined or fragile items. But, the presentation pointed out that this characteristic also means it depends on detergents and additives, which can be expensive. Because of this and also other factors such as additional labour, longer cycles, the cost per pound of clothes was said to be high. The GreenEarth patented process, which is based on D5, requires an annual licence. There has also been concern from some bodies about its toxicity. It is said to have a tendency for bioaccumulation in living organisms.

Wetcleaning is exempt from the 23-45 ruling. The panel’s presentation pointed out that it was non-toxic but posed some practical challenges such as the need for precise fabric identification, load classification and finishing. It is generally considered as a complementary rather than a primary system.

Following the academic presentation, Pierre LeTourneur, president of the FFPB association of cleaners and launderers summarised his association’s viewpoint. He reminded the audience that the choice of solvent, whether perc or one of the alternatives, depended on factors such as cost margins, service and turnover times, the degree of soiling on the clothes handled by the individual cleaners and the physical and space limitations of the plant. He also reminded the crowd that the use of any particular solvent including perc was but a small part of the overall operation of textile care.

Yves Taudière, president of the CFET-IDF was more critical, in particular of silicone solvents. He presented work by the association examining data and reports from various sources on silicone drycleaning. He cited the recent Canadian study released January 30, 2009 naming D5 silicone as an environmental pollutant (though it also concluded it was not harmful to humans – LCNi). Further data from the California Health Authority (OEHHA) was mentioned to show that the product could not be considered as non-toxic by the authority.