12/02/2014 07:06 EST | Updated 02/01/2015 05:59 EST

Prairie Distributors charged with unlawfully selling toxic chemical PERC

A Richmond-based distributor has been charged with unlawfully selling a toxic chemical to drycleaners in Metro Vancouver.

Prairie Distributors is now facing 10 counts for selling PERC, which has been linked to liver and kidney damage and can cause serious environmental contamination. 

PERC, also known as perchloroethylene or​ tetrachloroethylene, is very effective at removing stains without altering their shape. But it's also considered a probable carcinogen and was declared toxic in 1997 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Environment Canada did a lengthy investigation into 48 dry cleaners around the province in the summer of 2012, which found nearly half of them did not comply with strict rules governing the use of PERC. 

Prairie Distributors — the company that allegedly sold PERC to those businesses between 2011 and 2012 — was in court Tuesday to face the charges.  

Some of those drycleaners, such as Lester's Cleaners in North Vancouver, Save On Drycleaning in Surrey, Yager's Payless Drycleaning in Delta and Aldo’s Dry Cleaners in Nelson, were charged with also violating environmental regulations and fined thousands of dollars for improperly. 

Read the charges here.