U.S. EPA Moves to Ban TCE (trichloroethylene)


The U.S. EPA published this past week a notice in the Federal Register that it has begun promulgation of new regulations for the elimination of trichloroethylene (TCE) in several consumer and industrial products. The EPA is focused on uses in dry-cleaning as a spot-cleaner, aerosol formulations, and most importantly for the manufacturing sector, a ban on the use in vapor degreasing equipment.

Read it here: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/federal-register-notice-trichloroethylene-tce-0

Trichloroethylene has long been one of the key solvents used in vapor degreasing processes extending back into the 1930's when the vapor degreasing process came to light as one of the most innovative, efficient, and self-recycling processes available. Over the decades the process has been refined by the company who made one of the first vapor degreasers, Baron Blakeslee Inc.

Today, Baron-Blakeslee manufactures rugged, innovative, industrial-grade vapor
degreasers that have a perceived life of almost 30 years (in most instances) with little maintenance, and that fully meet the requirements of the U.S. EPA's NESHAP regulations.

The use of TCE in aerospace manufacturing processes has been on of the backbones of the industry. Fortunately, there are several companies that have already developed alternatives to TCE that can be used in vapor degreasers, without much concern of solvent loss.

New vapor degreasers that have been manufactured in the past 5 years are now much more efficient and have much lower "fugitive" emissions than the vapor degreasers of the past. Industry specialists, such as those at Chem Logic Inc, recommend the following pointers for anyone considering to replace their vapor degreaser:
1) Purchase from a well-established company - Well-established companies, such as Baron-Blakeslee, honestly, are focused on providing the customer the best cleaning equipment, designed with the most reliable features, for a reasonable price.
2) Provide automation with programmable features - The use of automation with programmable hoists, lifts, and process controls for ventilation, solvent exposure monitoring, and so forth, are necessary to reduce solvent use and reduce the operator's exposure to the solvent.
3) Listen to the Process Experts - Seek out a Sales Engineer that knows more about the process than you do and ask them to provide you a complete process overview. The may point out problems with the placement of the equipment, ventilation issues, or logistical issues that you may not realize. In some cases, it may be best to purchase 2 degreasers of differing size than a single large degreaser. They can also talk to you about custom filtration of particulates, how to recycle your solvent by distillation using a Solvent Recycling Still, or methods to eliminate solvent vapors from your facility.

The new U.S. EPA regulation on solvents is expected to encourage companies to purchase new equipment with the new safety features. Changes in the solvent for the process will increase raw solvent costs at between 4X and 10X of what the company was paying for TCE. The proposed regulation is expected to face resistance from the chlorinated solvent industry group, the Halogenated Solvent Industry Alliance, based in Washington D.C.