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Environmental Health Investigations branch

Modesto Dry Cleaner Investigation

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) are investigating information on 23 dry cleaners in the City of Modesto. At these locations, the dry cleaning chemical tetrachloroethylene (PCE) was found in the ground at higher concentrations than the screening level from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (230 micrograms per cubic meter). CDPH and ATSDR want the Modesto community to have all available information about potential exposures to dry cleaning chemicals like PCE. CDPH and ATSDR are committed to providing the best scientific information available and promoting the health of the community.

 Extent of Dry Cleaner Investigation in ModestoMap_Modesto_AllCleaners

What is CDPH doing in Modesto?

We are reviewing information on dry cleaning chemicals found in soil gas, beneath the foundation (sub-slab), crawl spaces, and indoor air. In our investigations, we are looking at how vapors from dry cleaning chemicals like PCE could affect the quality of indoor air in former dry cleaner buildings and nearby homes. This process is called Vapor Intrusion. We report our findings in documents called "Health Consultations" and short summaries. We are sending these summaries and additional information to neighborhood addresses near the dry cleaners.

Completed investigations:

Dry Cleaner(s)AddressHealth ConsultationHealth Consultation SummaryDate published

"Service Cleaners"

 

"Sparkleen Laundry and Dry Cleaner"

1425 La Loma Avenue

 

1511 Yosemite Boulevard

 Health Consultation (PDF) 

Summary (PDF)

March 2018

 

History of dry celaner investigations in Modesto

Since 2001, the City of Modesto has investigated toxic chemicals released from dry cleaners into the local soil and groundwater. The City signed Voluntary Cleanup Agreements with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) for several dry cleaners. In April 2010, DTSC asked CDPH for help in responding to a Modesto community member who had health concerns about exposures to chemicals from dry cleaners near their home. We reviewed the information and responded to the resident's specific concerns. After evaluating the available data, we decided to conduct health consultations for 23 dry cleaners in Modesto.

Modesto community concerns

During our outreach activities we received calls from community members who were concerned about the safety of their soil, drinking water, and air. The dry cleaner sites are fenced or paved, so there is no contact with contaminated soil. We also provided a contact to Modesto's Drinking Water Services.

What is vapor intrusion?

All soils contain numerous tiny air pockets (soil gas), like the air spaces in a sponge. If a volatile solvent like PCE is present in the soil or groundwater, it evaporates and becomes part of the soil gas. Vapor intrusion occurs when soil gas enters a building through cracks in the slab, foundation, basement floor, sewer lines, or other openings.  The amount of soil gas that moves into a building depends on the soil type and wetness of the soil, the air conditioning and heating settings in the building, the time residents keep windows open, the type and condition of the floor (cracks in the concrete, holes for utilities), and other factors. Once inside the building, the solvent vapors are part of the indoor air and we inhale them. In the past, some dry cleaners in Modesto spilled solvents like tetrachloroethylene or "PCE" on the ground or flushed them down the drains. PCE evaporates easily and can move from the soil and groundwater into soil gas.

Click here for more information on our website for Vapor Intrusion

What is PCE and what are its health effects?

PCE is a solvent used by many dry cleaners in the past. It is commonly found in outdoor air as well as indoor air of homes and other buildings. Many home cleaning products, solvents, and paint thinners contain PCE. ATSDR found that exposure to PCE might harm the nervous system, liver, kidneys and reproductive system. It can also be harmful to unborn children and increase the risk cancers. Scientists do not know if children are more at risk than adults to the effects of PCE.

Our investigations cannot predict if an exposed person will develop health effects. This depends on how much PCE a person is exposed to (how often and how long), exposures to other chemicals, and the age, sex, diet, heredity, lifestyle, and health of the person exposed. You can find more information on PCE and its health effects here:

Factsheet on Tetrachloroethylene or PCE (in English and Spanish):

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