MITOXIC-Why Dry Cleaning may not be good for any of us, especially Mitochondrial Disease patients

A few weeks ago, I went to pick up some dry cleaning with lady A. This errand for us is a RARE one, because we just don’t dry clean much at our house. But since daddy had been on a business trip we had a few pants and jackets that were “dry clean only”. We walked in and within a minute of being inside the dry cleaners, Lady A said, ” Wat dat smel?” ( interpretation: What’s that smell?)
Quickly my radar went up..  And my “sniffer” went into hyper awareness. Chemicals! Dry cleaning chemicals which I could smell coming from the clothes and the back room (the dry cleaning itself is done off-site at a plant location, so the “smell” was from those chemicals on the clothes covered with plastic held for pick up in the back room). Quickly, I paid and attempted to get  Lady A out of the store.  Clothes in one hand and lady A in the other (trying to keep the 2 of them as far from one another as humanly possible).

But I was too late, the reaction had already begun. She started screaming and flailing and hitting. I am sure to the woman behind the counter it looked like a very dramatic 3 year old temper tantrum… But it was not… As I struggled to get her to the car and fastened in her car seat (her body stiff as a board) my mind went racing back through all the reactions we have had to chemicals (especially those containing alcohol– the nail polish remover, the hand sanitizer, the hairspray, the windex) and I prayed that this one would end quickly and leave her unscathed.  I drove as quick as I could home (trying not to speed), and got her inside to “cleaner air”. I left the dry-cleaned clothes in the garage to “air out”. The screaming continued for 20 more minutes. I tried everything to calm her: food, water, toys, lollipops… nothing worked. I put on a Veggie Tales video and held her while she thrashed and hit and tried to bite me, and finally she began to stop flailing and hitting and kicking…. And a calm came over her. A calm, where, when you look into her eyes she is not there, a daze of sorts, trans-fixed on the video, no expression, no emotion, just blankness. We have seen her “here” too many times before and each time is no less terrifying than the last.
After an  hour plus of  her laying on the couch I was able to feed her and get her to drink and then put her down in her crib, for a nap, which I knew her body would desperately need to recover from this exposure. Rest to re-charge her batteries which had just taken a double assault- a chemical exposure and expenditure of much more essential energy than she had stored up.
As she napped, I researched, not knowing the exact chemical that she inhaled (I am STILL waiting for a call from the owner of the dry cleaner for disclosure of the chemical they use)… with a bit of digging I came across: Tetrachloroethylene… The most commonly used dry cleaning chemical… is toxic to none other than….. one’s Mitochondria!!
Really, I thought, Are you kidding me? I am beginning to wonder if there is anything out there that doesn’t harm one’s mitochondria? But a pattern has been froming, it has taken us 3 years for see it…but a pattern has formed- no longer is this a random list of chemicals that my daughter is reacting to but one with a common thread- CHEMICALS that at a CELLULAR LEVEL CAUSE: mitochondrial damage.

As I read more about common chemicals that were used in dry cleaning they all seem to be halogenated (Chlorine, Flourine , Bromine) volatile solvents (sorry, that is chemistry speak for light weight molecules that evaporate quickly and have a Cl, F or B element hanging off them!)
But what it makes me wonder more… Is how much harm environmental exposures to toxic chemicals do to our bodies and our mitochondrial. And it seems reasonable to assume that if these chemicals harm a healthy persons mitochondria, then a person or child that has mitochondrial disease is at higher risk  and could be harmed MORE by these toxins.

So for those of you who need more proof here is just some of what I discovered:

Autism spectrum disorders in relation to distribution of hazardous air pollutants in the san francisco bay area.


Subjects included 284 children with ASD and 657 controls, born in 1994 in the San Francisco Bay area. We assigned exposure level by census tract of birth residence for 19 chemicals we identified as potential neurotoxicants, developmental toxicants, and/or endocrine disruptors from the 1996 HAPs database. Because concentrations of many of these were highly correlated, we combined the chemicals into mechanistic and structural groups, calculating summary index scores. We calculated ASD risk in the upper quartiles of these group scores or individual chemical concentrations compared with below the median, adjusting for demographic factors.


The adjusted odds ratios (AORs) were elevated by 50% in the top quartile of chlorinated solvents and heavy metals [95% confidence intervals (CIs) , 1.1-2.1], but not for aromatic solvents. Adjusting for these three groups simultaneously led to decreased risks for the solvents and increased risk for metals (AORs for metals: fourth quartile = 1.7 ; 95% CI, 1.0-3.0 ; third quartile = 1.95 ; 95% CI, 1.2-3.1) . The individual compounds that contributed most to these associations included mercury, cadmium, nickel, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride.


Our results suggest a potential association between autism and estimated metal concentrations, and possibly solvents, in ambient air around the birth residence, requiring confirmation and more refined exposure assessment in future studies.

A book about liver disease and this CHART that shows causes for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, including mitochondrial disease AND toxins including dry cleaning solvents

Trichloroethylene: Parkinsonism and complex 1 mitochondrial neurotoxicity.


The three workers with workstations adjacent to the trichloroethylene source and subjected to chronic inhalation and dermal exposure from handling trichloroethylene-soaked metal parts had Parkinson’s disease. Coworkers more distant from the trichloroethylene source, receiving chronic respiratory exposure, displayed many features of parkinsonism, including significant motor slowing. Neurotoxic actions of trichloroethylene were demonstrated in accompanying animal studies showing that oral administration of trichloroethylene for 6 weeks instigated selective complex 1 mitochondrial impairment in the midbrain with concomitant striatonigral fiber degeneration and loss of dopamine neurons.


Trichloroethylene, used extensively in industry and the military and a common environmental contaminant, joins other mitochondrial neurotoxins, MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine) and some pesticides, as a risk factor for parkinsonism.

Solvent exposures and parkinson disease risk in twins

What is the ALTERNATIVE?

For a store locator click HERE

Near Houston Texas, An ALTERNATIVE that we will NOW be using~


Others in the MITOXIC Series of posts:

Mitochondria: The Canary in the Coal mine

MITOXIC: Artificial Colors



About Empowered Advocacy Pediatric Patient Advocate
This entry was posted in Allergies, Autism, Baby Step, Household chemicals, Medical, Mitochondrial Disease, Mitoxic, Toxins, transfer and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to MITOXIC-Why Dry Cleaning may not be good for any of us, especially Mitochondrial Disease patients

  1. Jenna says:

    I am glad that you were able to find an alternative. I am sorry to hear that Lady A had to go through that, but I am glad you found a way to keep it from happening again. I just saw a pin on pinterest that you might be interested in. Making your own cleaning wipes to avoid house hold cleaners.

  2. Jenna says:

    One of the blogs I read posted this, – just thought I would pass it on in case you didn’t know about it.

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  7. Katie says:

    The thing we find most helpful for dealing with reactions is a bath with Epsom salts and bicarb (we use potassium bicarb, but sodium would work too). If a bath isn’t feasible, just sprayed on skin helps. Those reactions which look like tantrums but aren’t, are Not Much Fun for anyone.

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