DEC to test for toxic dry cleaning chemicals at child care facilities

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) State environmental officials say they are testing six child care and preschool programs for dry cleaning chemical contamination.

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and Health Department say they selected locations within 200 feet of current or former dry cleaning businesses.

Officials did not specify the locations, saying they are holding off until all parents have been told about the testing set to begin next month. They say the testing is precautionary and that no one has reported being sick. Test results are expected to be available within two weeks of the test date.

Chemicals associated with dry cleaning-- like tetrachlorethylene and perchloroethylene, or perc-- can seep into the ground if not stored or disposed of properly, and move from the ground into the air of buildings through the foundation.

There is a legacy of perc-contaminated sites across Vermont. One of the more notorious was the former Unifirst plant in Williamstown. Starting in the 1970s, the company illegally discharged dry cleaning chemicals, leaving dozens of private wells off limits.

Excessive exposure to the chemicals can damage the liver, kidneys and respiratory system. And because perc is heavier than water, it sinks to the bottom of aquifers, which is where private wells get their water.