A building housing a Japanese restaurant and, formerly, a dry cleaning business in Menlo Park has been found to have elevated levels of tetrachloroethylene, a solvent often used at dry cleaning facilities that is "probably carcinogenic to humans," according to the California Department of Toxic Substance Control.
According to a letter the department's project manager Jessica Tibor sent to the Menlo Park City Council, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and county health officials on Nov. 20, a preliminary air sampling analysis at Gombei, a restaurant located at 1438 El Camino Real, found that the indoor air concentration of the substance was at 38 micrograms per cubic meter. The standard concentration used to screen for cancer risk is 2 micrograms per cubic meter, she explained in the letter.
These levels are not expected to harm human health, according to Gamaliel Ortiz, public information officer at the Department of Toxic Substance Control.
Tetrachloroethylene, or PCE for short, can in high concentrations lead to dizziness and eye irritation. Chronic exposure can also lead to liver damage, Ortiz explained in an email to The Almanac.
In addition, PCE in high concentrations can probably cause cancer in humans, according to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, or OEHHA for short.
The levels of PCE detected in the restaurant are below the agency's threshold for screening for health effects other than cancer, but are above the threshold for screening for cancer, he noted.
"The cancer screening level is set at a concentration that if one million people breathed air with a screening level concentration of PCE during each workday over a 25-year period, one of those people might develop cancer as a result," he explained. "The maximum detected concentration in the kitchen area of the restaurant is associated with a predicted cancer risk of two in 100,000, meaning if 100,000 people were exposed to that concentration for 25 years there is the potential for two of those people to develop cancer."
The notification has been given in order to comply with California's Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, or Proposition 65, which "requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm," according to the OEHHA.
The property owners have hired an environmental consultant who will take samples, and there will be ongoing remediation efforts, Ortiz noted.
The restaurant owner could not immediately be reached for comment.