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EU confirms nPB safe for the Ozone layer

No ban on use of n-Propyl Bromide (nPB) as cleaning solvent in Europe.

Rumours have been circulating recently  that nPB was to be banned in Europe because of  its ozone depletion potential (ODP) This is completely wrong. The European Parliament as part of its ongoing commitment to the Montreal Protocol process monitors known and potential ozone depleting substances used in refrigeration, fumigation and solvent cleaning processes to ensure that the European Union meets its International responsibilities. Due to the rapid increase in usage for vapour degreasing nPB consumption will, in future, be monitored but not  restricted or banned.

Volatile halogenated compounds are the substances which most effect the ozone layer.  Compounds containing Fluorine in particular  are under constant review as this is the most reactive  of the halogens. The original fluorocarbons sold in Europe as, amongst others Freon and Arklone used as refrigerants, aerosol propellants and cleaning solvents were the original culprits and phased out of use during the 1970s and 80s allowing the ozone layer to slowly recover. Many others have been restricted and banned since this time the most recent, used for cleaning, being HCFC 141b. When first introduced this was assumed to be an acceptable replacement, however, further work over the following years established that it too was depleting the ozone layer and it was  banned together with other fluorine based liquids used in refrigeration and air conditioning (the “F” gases). Other fluorine compounds and blends are again being offered as alternatives for cleaning, such as HFEs and HFCs, and only time will tell whether these too will cause problems.

Stabilised nPB, most commonly available as EnSolv, is the  drop in substitute for the carcinogen trichloroethylene, the most widely used solvent for vapour degreasing. This process is used throughout manufacturing industry as it offers many advantages when compared to alternative technologies such as water cleaning.

*  EnSolv is very fast, cycle time 3 to 5 minutes, comparative water cleaning cycles 30 to 60 minutes.

*  Efficient 8 to 10 loads per hour compared to water cleaning cycles of 1 to two per hour.

*  Energy efficient using only 5% of the energy requirements of aqueous systems with huge savings in C02 emissions.

*  Economical, solvent cleaning with EnSolv  when all the factors are considered is more economical not only in terms of money but in its effects on the environment.

Vapour degreasing  with EnSolv offers levels of cleaning, when used in the right equipment,  that is not achievable with any other process.  EnSolv with a boiling point of 70C allows parts to be handled immediately and which do not corrode in storage. Very little monitoring is needed as the stabiliser system, patented world wide, is self regulating. Safe for people and the environment this is why sales have grown so rapidly in the past two years and is why the EU Commission has to monitor the increased consumption.

n - Propyl Bromide (nPB) is, like many other substances, rightly under constant review by the UN Environmental Panel to ensure that it is not affecting the ozone layer. The UN EP and the US EPA asked for a very sophisticated 3 dimensional study on the affects of very short lived halogenated compounds from Prof. Don Weubbles, who is the originator of  ODPs and this is due for publication soon. This will give  comparative ODPs for nPB and other commonly used halogenated solvents which until now has not been possible due to the difficulties of comparing different atmospheric models. The report will, subject to the editor’s agreement, be published in this magazine following peer review, and demonstrates that nPB will have minimal impact on the ozone layer and gives no cause for concern.

Because nPB is a perfect and very simple drop-in replacement for the other solvents used in vapour degreasing it has been the subject of innumerable studies for its environmental and toxicological effects. In many parts of the world it is becoming the solvent of choice for managements who do not wish to expose their workforce to carcinogens.  nPB is not considered by any of the International agencies as a carcinogen. It has however in Europe been incorrectly classified as a category 2 reproductive toxin. The manufacturers of Ensolv have been challenging the EU Commission for the last five years to justify their actions in court. The HSE in the UK have to implement and enforce this classification and a Judicial Review has been requested, which has now been suspended by the by mutual agreement until the European Court of Justice,( the European High court)  has made a judgement. Judges in Belgium have also asked the ECJ for a ruling which should be forthcoming in the near future.

EnviroTech  the  manufacturers have self classified EnSolv as non flammable and as R20 -  Harmful by inhalation and expect this to be confirmed by the court when judgement is given.

EnSolv is a patented product used worldwide.

Editor’s Note
This Press Release is issued by EnviroTech (Europe) Ltd. manufacturers of Ensolv precision cleaning solvents.


page last modified on 17/12/09

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