MnTAP publication highlights work of 2022 P2 interns

The 2022 MnTAP Solutions magazine highlights the projects led by our 16 talented interns and the companies that supported their recommendations to reduce waste, water, energy. These projects resulted in proposed solutions that could save the companies $3,068,000 annually as well as significant environmental impacts.

EPA finds methylene chloride poses an unreasonable risk to human health

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a revision to the risk determination for methylene chloride, finding that methylene chloride, as a whole chemical substance, presents an unreasonable risk of injury to human health when evaluated under its conditions of use. The next step in the process is to develop a risk management rulemaking to identify and apply measures that will manage these risks.

Uses and Risks Associated with Methylene Chloride

Methylene chloride is a volatile chemical used as a solvent in vapor degreasing, metal cleaning, in the production of refrigerant chemicals, and as an ingredient in sealants and adhesive removers. Common consumer uses include adhesives, sealants, degreasers, cleaners and automobile products.

In its revised risk determination based on the 2020 risk evaluation, EPA found that methylene chloride presents unreasonable risk to the health of workers, occupational non-users (workers nearby but not in direct contact with this chemical), consumers and bystanders. EPA identified risks for adverse human health effects not related to cancer, including neurotoxicity and liver effects, from acute and chronic inhalation and dermal exposures to methylene chloride. EPA also identified risks for cancer from chronic inhalation and dermal exposures to methylene chloride.

EPA used the whole chemical risk determination approach for methylene chloride in part because there are benchmark exceedances for multiple conditions of use (spanning across most aspects of the chemical lifecycle from manufacturing (import), processing, commercial use, consumer use, and disposal) for health of workers, occupational non-users, consumers and bystanders, and because the health effects associated with methylene chloride exposures are severe and potentially irreversible (specifically cancer, coma, hypoxia and death).

Overall, EPA determined that 52 of the 53 conditions of use EPA evaluated drive the unreasonable risk determination. One condition of use does not drive the unreasonable risk: distribution in commerce. The revised risk determination supersedes the condition of use-specific no unreasonable risk determinations that were previously issued by order under section 6(i) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in the 2020 methylene chloride risk evaluation.

The revised risk determination for methylene chloride does not reflect an assumption that workers always and appropriately wear personal protective equipment (PPE), even though some facilities might be using PPE as one means to reduce workers’ exposure. This decision should not be viewed as an indication that EPA believes there is widespread non-compliance with applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. In fact, EPA has received public comments from industry respondents about occupational safety practices currently in use at their facilities and will consider these comments, as well as other information on use of PPE, engineering controls, and other ways industry protects its workers, as potential ways to address unreasonable risk during the risk management process. The consideration of this information will be part of the risk management process.

EPA understands there could be occupational safety protections in place at some workplace locations. However, not assuming use of PPE in its baseline exposure scenarios reflects EPA’s recognition that certain subpopulations of workers exist that may be highly exposed because:

As EPA moves forward with a risk management rulemaking for methylene chloride, the agency will strive for consistency with existing OSHA requirements or best industry practices when those measures would address the identified unreasonable risk. EPA will propose occupational safety measures in the risk management process that would meet TSCA’s statutory requirement to eliminate unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.

Next Steps for Methylene Chloride

EPA is now moving forward on risk management to address the unreasonable risk presented by methylene chloride. Note that in taking this action, EPA has not conducted a new scientific analysis on this chemical and the risk evaluation continues to characterize risks associated with individual conditions of use in the risk evaluation of methylene chloride in order to inform risk management.

In June 2021, EPA announced a path forward for the first 10 chemicals to undergo risk evaluation under TSCA to ensure the public is protected from unreasonable risks from these chemicals in a way that is supported by science and the law. The revised risk determination for methylene chloride was developed in accordance with these policy changes, as well as the Biden-Harris Administration’s Executive Orders and other directives, including those on environmental justice, scientific integrity, and regulatory review. EPA’s revisions ensure that the methylene chloride risk determination better aligns with the objectives of protecting health and the environment under the amended TSCA.

Separately, EPA is conducting a screening-level approach to assess potential risks from the air and water pathways for several of the first 10 chemicals, including methylene chloride. The goal of the screening approach is to evaluate the surface water, drinking water, and ambient air pathways for methylene chloride that were excluded from the 2020 risk evaluation, and to identify if there are risks that were unaccounted for in that risk evaluation. EPA expects to describe its findings regarding the chemical-specific application of this screening-level approach in its proposed risk management rule for methylene chloride.

Additionally, EPA expects to focus its risk management action on the conditions of use that drive the unreasonable risk. However, EPA is not limited to regulating the specific activities found to drive unreasonable risk, and may select from among a wide range of risk management requirements. As a general example, EPA may regulate upstream activities (e.g., processing, distribution in commerce) to address downstream activities (e.g., consumer uses) driving unreasonable risk, even if the upstream activities do not drive the unreasonable risk.

Read More.

NASF/AESF Foundation Research Project #121: Development of a Sustainability Metrics System and a Technical Solution Method for Sustainable Metal Finishing – 8th Quarterly Report

Read the full story at Products Finishing.

This NASF-AESF Foundation research project report covers the eighth quarter of project work (January-March 2022) at Wayne State University in Detroit.  The major activities in this report period are: (1) the development of a sustainability assessment method for technology evaluation with case studies, and (2) a continuous development of a software tool for sustainability assessment.

Non-PFAS wetting agents for decorative chromium(VI) plating

Read the full story at Products Finishing.

This article is based on a presentation given at NASF SUR/FIN 2022, in Rosemont, Illinois, in Session 6, Responses to PFAS / PFOA.  It follows the case study of three facilities’ conversion from PFAS-containing wetting agents to non-PFAS equivalents, eliminating PFAS and moving forward with a smaller and more sustainable environmental footprint.  The journey of conversion from PFAS-containing wetting agents in both chromic-sulfuric etch and hexavalent decorative plating tanks can be complicated and winding due to deep rooted standard industry practices, as well as state and federal regulations.  Outlined here is a clear course of action that led to eliminating PFAS from the facilities’ wetting agent strategies.

TURI releases guide to safer alternatives for halogenated solvents

TURI’s new Alternatives to Halogenated Solvents Used in Surface Cleaning Guide provides insight into safer options for specific applications, shows how to evaluate those alternatives, and determine information needed from equipment vendors. Links to case studies sprinkled throughout showcase safer alternative chemistries and equipment used, performance testing process, and return on investment.

Webinar: Mainstreaming Green Chemistry in Metal Finishing Operations: Finding the Indicators

Mar 21, 2022, 11 am CDT
Register here.

Green Chemistry (GC) principles provide chemists the opportunity to create a greener landscape across all industrial sectors; however, the application of these principles for the creation of new molecular designs is still lagging. The availability of cleaners, safer or greener chemicals is not yet available for many industrial sectors.

The metal finishing sector, for instance, continues to use chemicals considered hazardous, toxic and even carcinogenic.  To reduce the harm and risk of exposure, it is necessary to find an alternate path to advance greener perspectives.  This is a challenge, especially in an industry where the use of chemicals of concern (i.e.; chromic acid, lead and cadmium compound) are heavily present as raw materials. Finding GC opportunities within metal finishing is not only difficult but also one that poses challenges to its advancement.  This presentation gives us a perspective that allows us to apply and find “greenness” in some of the operations in metal finishing.

By using the Prevention principle and the perspective from the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3), the presenter will explain how to identify GC indicators. Under this new alternate path, metrics can be developed and be integrated to measure the greenness in metal finishing operations. The presence or absence of green indicators in the operations in a company may serve to either grant a green certification or make recommendation that may lead to the promotion of GC. 

Consortium finds safer alternatives for aerospace and defense

A consortium, led by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute, that evaluates safer alternatives to coatings containing hexavalent chromium used in the aerospace and defense industry has published its final results for conversion coatings.

Research Manager Greg Morose, in partnership with Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin, authored the recent article in the Journal of Aerospace and Technology and Management. Test results of three conversion coatings that don’t contain hexavalent chromium passed several industry specific performance requirements.

Learn more about the research.

For the first time in over 30 years, the EPA adds to its list of hazardous air pollutants

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to add a powerful dry-cleaning solvent, 1-bromopropane, to its list of hazardous air pollutants was long overdue, environmentalists and industry officials say. Researchers, bureaucrats and even many chemical makers have viewed it for years as a dangerous airborne pollutant suspected to damage nerves and cause cancer.

Yet it took a decade of prodding to prompt EPA officials to register it as a hazardous air toxic. The final rule was announced in a notice published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. The designation allows the agency to set limits on emissions of the solvent, valued by dry cleaners, auto shops and other businesses for its ability to treat dirty fabrics and greasy metal parts.

New chemical safety assessment tools developed to help the electronics sector clean up its supply chains

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

Last week, green chemical solutions advocate Clean Production Action unveiled GreenScreen Certified for Cleaners & Degreasers in Manufacturing, a tool to assess chemical safety in the industrial sector.

PowerTech Water, manufacturer of ElectraMet™ brand water treatment technologies, closes $6 million in venture capital to expand operations in Lexington, KY.

Read the news release.

PowerTech Water announced the closing of its oversubscribed Series B financing round led by HG Ventures.  The funds will be used to meet the rising demand for sustainable industrial water treatment, accelerate corporate partnerships, and expand operations in Lexington, Kentucky.