MDCH Releases Public Health Consultation For Washtenaw County Dry Cleaners

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

April 11, 2005

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has found that a Washtenaw County dry cleaning business may pose a future public health hazard if the site is not remediated.

Ann Arbor’s Armen Cleaners – located on Ashley Street in the downtown section of the city – was originally identified as a site of environmental concern in 1985 when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources found that dry cleaning waste had been improperly stored and spilled on-site.

Although this site has been cleaned up once already, excess levels of perchloroethylene (perc) were discovered in groundwater and soil gas by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in 2000. Currently, it is thought that perc could be infiltrating into indoor air via “vapor intrusion,” through cracks and crevices in the foundation of nearby residential homes, said Erik Janus, an MDCH toxicologist.

MDCH evaluated soil gas, groundwater, indoor air, and outdoor air data provided by the DEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency. Perc and other volatile organic compounds associated with the environmental breakdown of dry cleaning fluid were found on the site.

One nearby property was found to have ambient (outdoor) air levels of perc that exceed the accepted long-term exposure standard; however, exposure to perc at these levels would be expected to be seasonal and sporadic in nature – classifying the health hazard as indeterminate.

Janus said it appears as if these levels in outdoor air at nearby properties are a result of cooling air containing perc being vented from the Armen Cleaners building. Long-term exposure to perc found in indoor air is generally not expected to result in health effects. MDCH suggests that releases to outdoor air from the facility, as well as the contaminated groundwater under the facility, be addressed in order to minimize future exposures to the public.

The MDCH Division of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology conducted the Public Health Consultation for Armen Cleaners under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Information concerning the human health effects of exposure to environmental contaminants can be found on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) web page at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaq.html.