April 18, 2007

Dry Cleaning Chemical Linked to Increased Schizophrenia Risk

A new research study by Scientists at Columbia University suggests that a exposure to a chemical used in clothes dry cleaning may increase the risk of schizophrenia by 200% to 300%.

Tetrachloroethylene is a solvent used in clothes dry cleaning with reported brain toxic effects - and because of this the researchers looked to see if it had any impact in the incidence of schizophrenia in children who might have been exposed to the chemical during their youth (or parents exposed to the chemical during pregnancy).

In the study the researchers examined the relationship between parental occupation as a dry cleaner and risk for schizophrenia in the children. The study looked at a total population of 88,829 children born in Jerusalem from 1964 through 1976, followed from birth to age 21-33 years.

The researchers report that:

"Of 144 offspring whose parents were dry cleaners, 4 developed schizophrenia (where, given a normal population you would expect one, or at most two children with schizophrenia). We observed an increased incidence of schizophrenia in offspring of parents who were dry cleaners wrote M.C. Perrin and colleagues, Columbia University, Department of Epidemiology.

The researchers concluded: "Tetrachloroethylene exposure warrants further investigation as a risk factor for schizophrenia."

Additional studies will need to be done to verify this link, but it is already well known and publicized that the chemicals used in dry cleaning are hazardous. Health advocacy groups already suggest "If you must dry-clean, take the plastic bags off your clothes, and let them air out on the clothesline or in the garage until the sweet smell is gone. source: Jeremiah Baumann, toxics and environmental health advocate for the Washington, DC-based US Public Interest Research Groups."

Source: Schizophrenia Research (Tetrachloroethylene exposure and risk of schizophrenia: offspring of dry cleaners in a population birth cohort, preliminary findings. Schizophrenia Research, 2007;90(1-3):251-4).

Additional Information:

Causes of Schizophrenia

Preventing Schizophrenia


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