PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, November 26, 2012

When Washing Rags Creates Toxic Emissions

The shop towels used by mechanics to mop up spilled oil can release toxic chemicals into the air when laundered. (Reed Saxon/AP)

If you think your laundry is dirty, consider the many shops and garages that use shop towels – absorbent, reusable cloths for wiping oil, solvents and chemicals off machines.

The shop towels are eventually carted off to industrial laundries, which clean them. In that process, toxic chemicals – including carcinogens – are released, and could be inhaled.

Environmental regulators in Connecticut found emissions from these volatile organic compounds (VOCs) so bad at one laundry, they stopped the facility from cleaning them.

Science journalist Barbara Moran, who wrote about the issue for the Connecticut Health I-Team, told Here & Now that environmental regulators admitted to her they had missed this problem.

“It’s kind of flown under the radar,” Moran said. “Even when I first heard about this story, I was like, ‘wait air emissions?’ I don’t even understand how this could be happening because laundries, when they’re targeted, are usually targeted for water discharge, water emission issues.”

The environmental consulting firm Gradient has conducted research on shop towels, and found they can also put workers at risk, since they still contain metals such as lead, even after laundering.

Graphic created by Kimberly-Clark Professional.

Guest:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

July 28 146 Comments

Religious Groups Upset Over Boy Scouts’ Decision To Lift Ban On Gay Leaders

The chairman of Trail Life USA, a group that formed after the Boy Scouts opened its membership to gay youth, explains his position.

July 28 5 Comments

Shamir: From Country To Pop

The 20-year-old talks about his new album, his androgynous voice and how his disco-pop sound has evolved.

July 27 10 Comments

U.S. Wind Power On Course To Grow Big

The Department of Energy says wind power is poised to become one of the country's largest sources of energy.

July 27 2 Comments

Alaskans Still Cleaning Up Reminders Of Japan Tsunami

Crews are picking up and bagging tons of debris that were swept out to sea when the tsunami hit in 2011.