Chemicals

Evaluating and Locating Safer Solvent Substitutes

As required by the Clean Air Act (CAA), the SNAP program provides lists of new substitute chemicals, including solvents, for a broad range of industries, uses and applications. But the lists also include other information that can help in the process of deciding which, if any, alternative solvents are best suited for a particular situation.

This information includes the names of the solvents to be replaced, the name of the proposed new substance, pending regulatory actions, Occupational Safety and Health  Administration (OSHA) information such as required  permissible exposure limits and personnel protective equipment, any conditions imposed on use of the substitute, and information pertaining to other applicable environmental regulations. For those proposed substitutes that did make the cut, the lists also provides the reasons why.

For example, in the Metal Cleaning sector, the EPA lists “volatile methyl siloxanes” as a new substitute for “CFC-113, Methyl Chloroform,” and comments that “Approval is granted for the whole class of compounds.” On the other hand for the new substitute “HFE-7200 (C5F9OCH3)” as a replace for “CFC-113, Methyl Chloroform,” the comments state, “The Agency expects that any exposures will not exceed any acceptable exposure limits set by any voluntary consensus standards organization, including the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ (ACGIH) threshold limit values (TLVs) or the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s (AIHA) workplace environmental exposure limits (WEELs).”


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For example, in the Metal Cleaning sector, the EPA lists “volatile methyl siloxanes” as a new substitute for “CFC-113, Methyl Chloroform,” and comments that “Approval is granted for the whole class of compounds.” On the other hand for the new substitute “HFE-7200 (C5F9OCH3)” as a replace for “CFC-113, Methyl Chloroform,” the comments state, “The Agency expects that any exposures will not exceed any acceptable exposure limits set by any voluntary consensus standards organization, including the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ (ACGIH) threshold limit values (TLVs) or the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s (AIHA) workplace environmental exposure limits (WEELs).”

In the same sector list, the proposed substitute that is “acceptable subject to use conditions” is “Monochlorotoluenes and benzotrifluorides” as a replacement for “CFC-113, Methyl Chloroform,” lists Conditions or Restrictions as “Subject to a 50 ppm workplace standard for monochlorotoluenes and a 100 ppm standard for benzotrifluoride” with additional comments stating, “The workplace standard for monochlorotoluenes is based on an OSHA PEL of 50 ppm for orthochlorotoluene. The workplace standard for benzotrifluoride is based on the company-set acceptable exposure limit.”

While this information offers a level of assurance about those chemicals that have been evaluated by EPA, it does not provide information about how to narrow down your solvent substitute choices based on processes, applications and other parameters, and ultimately chose the best one for the job. Fortunately, however, there are other tools available in the public domain to help without having to join anything or even sign up to use the tools.


Join us on March 19 for an in-depth webinar where our expert, a seasoned EPA expert who has been extensively involved with the rule changes, will provide participants with a clear understanding of how to assure full compliance and achieve maximum benefit for the revised regulations.


One great tool is called CleanerSolutions and it is online via the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. CleanerSolutions is a free and interactive web-based platform that allows users to input their contaminant, the solvent to be replaced, the equipment, and the material to be cleaned. Chemicals are prescreened to assess global warming potential, ozone depleting potential (ODP), volatile organic contents, and acute toxicity, flammability and reactivity. The search results provide not only suggested substitutes, but performance test results, and safety information based on the prescreening information. The site also allows users to search and/or browse vendor information, clients and trials. The database is available at http://www.cleanersolutions.org

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology provides a similar tool, but one that is specifically intended for research laboratories to reduce their use of hazardous substances, and hence, hazardous wastes. Called The Green Chemical Alternatives Purchasing Wizard, the platform allows users to search by four methods:

  1. The chemical to be replaced,
  2. The process to be replaced or modified,
  3. A known alternative chemical, or
  4. A known alternative process.

The program is available at http://ehs.mit.edu/greenchem/.