NIOSH Evaluates Occupational Exposures to Alternative Drycleaning Solvents

Published May 27, 2015

NIOSH staff developed air and skin patch sampling methods for two alternative drycleaning solvents—SolvonK4 and DF-2000—for a recent health hazard evaluation (HHE) of occupational exposures in drycleaning shops. The HHE was requested by a manager of a local government program who was concerned about employee exposures to the two new drycleaning solvents.

During visits to three drycleaning shops, NIOSH personnel took air samples for butylal, the main ingredient in SolvonK4; formaldehyde and butanol, possible byproducts from using SolvonK4; and DF-2000. Investigators also tested workers’ skin under their protective gloves for butylal or DF-2000. Results showed air and skin exposures to butylal, but the NIOSH report notes that there are no occupational exposure limits (OELs) for the chemical and the long-term human health effects of SolvonK4 are unknown. Air concentrations of DF-2000 proved to be well below OELs. According to the HHE report, the highest air concentrations of SolvonK4 and DF-2000 were measured when employees were loading and unloading the drycleaning machines and pressing fabrics.

NIOSH staff also observed dust and lint in the shops, which are a potential fuel source in case of fire.

The NIOSH HHE report lists several recommendations for workers at the facility, including:

  • wear gloves and eye protection when using spot cleaners
  • if using spot cleaners containing SolvonK4, wear a long-sleeve shirt and polyvinyl chloride or polyethylene protective gloves
  • brush pre-spotting mixture onto fabrics instead of spraying
  • clean shops regularly using a high efficiency particulate air filter vacuum cleaner or wet methods

View the full report as a PDF. Other NIOSH HHE reports are available on the agency’s website.