|Description:||From 1950, this historical photograph was provided by the Center for Disease Control's (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and depicted an African American worker in a dry cleaning establishment using the chemical “benzol”, another name for “benzene” (C6H6), in order to “spot clean” a garment. Benzene is a proven carcinogen, and very flammable. In the 1950s, the Industrial Hygiene Division (IHD) investigated hazards in dry cleaning environments. New non-flammable cleaners had recently been introduced that created concerns about their toxicity. |
As of 2005, there were approximately 36,000 dry cleaning businesses in the U.S. with most employing less than ten people. The focus today is on the perchloroethylene, used as a solvent in 85% of dry cleaning shops. It is carcinogenic in animals and suspected to be so in humans.
The NIOSH Historic Photo Collection began as the “picture file” of the Industrial Hygiene Division of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), c. 1930-1960. It is a unique collection of mid-20th Century images of American workers and workplaces and documents occupational safety and health research of that era. The collection consists of approximately 1,000 original photographs and schematic drawings.