This article appears in the Nov. 2 issue of the Boston Globe Magazine. Read the full article here.
When Myra Vargas and her husband took over a dry-cleaning business in Jamaica Plain last spring, they had to make a tough decision: whether to use a common chemical called perchloroethylene, known as perc, or institute a costly change. Vargas knew that perc, which they’d been using to clean clothes at their Roslindale shop for nearly two decades, was dangerous. Years earlier, she’d been warned to stay away from it while pregnant. But she’d recently learned that perc probably causes cancer in dry-cleaning workers. “We went seventeen years using something that was dangerous for everybody,” she says.
Extra encouragement to make the change to a safe system known as wet cleaning came from a group called Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition, but it wouldn’t be easy. The couple would need to buy all new machinery and pay to get rid of their old, perc-based equipment. And making the switch would cost more than $100,000, a daunting hurdle. Plus, they’d heard conflicting stories about whether wet cleaning worked as well. But then the project helped them get a $15,000 state grant and launch a Kickstarter campaign that raised another $18,000. On September 11, J&P Dry Cleaners celebrated its grand opening as the neighborhood’s only wet cleaner and one of only about a dozen in the state.