Safe, sustainable n-Propyl Bromide and TCE replacement

The use of toxic chemicals like n-propyl bromide (nPB or 1-BP) and trichloroethylene (TCE) in vapor degreasing has become increasingly scrutinized by regulatory authorities throughout the world. Due to worker safety concerns, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed banning TCE in vapor degreasing and has targeted nPB as one of its top 10 chemicals to undergo risk evaluation to determine if it presents an unreasonable risk to humans. The European Union has already sunset TCE in vapor degreasing and nPB is scheduled for 2020. 3M™ Novec™ Engineered Fluids are a safe, sustainable cleaning alternative to n-propyl bromide (nPB), trichloroethylene (TCE), and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and unlike with nPB and TCE usage, the EPA does not require users of Novec fluids to report consumption.

n-Propyl Bromide (nPB) safety regulations

Because of worker safety concerns, regulatory pressure is intensifying around nPB, or 1-bromopropane. The list of current/upcoming regulation changes for nPB includes:

nPB toxicity and margin of safety

  • Purple icon of 3 people in safety gear.

    Put the safety of your workers first. In order to use nPB safely in vapor degreasing applications, companies need to reduce worker exposure levels to at least 0.1 ppm, which is 100x lower than typical vapor degreasing exposure levels. This can be costly and may include new ventilation systems, respiratory protection, equipment enclosures and modifications to vapor degreasers. The added cost of equipment and process modifications, training and exposure monitoring makes nPB impractical for use in vapor degreasing.

    Non-cancer and cancer health risks were identified for workers with repeated and chronic exposure to nPB, including:

    • Neurotoxicity
    • Kidney toxicity
    • Liver toxicity
    • Reproductive toxicity
    • Lung cancer

Case Studies – Time’s Up for TCE

Regulations banning – or proposing to ban – TCE in vapor degreasing and solvent cleaning due to worker safety and environmental sustainability concerns are driving precision parts manufacturers and machine shops to test alternative cleaning solvents. In many cases, they’re finding that Novec fluids are not only safer for workers, but they can also save money and improve cleaning performance at the same time.

Explore a range of case studies where Novec fluids demonstrated their performance in challenging cleaning applications, from precision machined parts to military-grade electronics:

  • BAE Systems manufactures advanced electronics for the defense and aerospace industries. Motivated by EU regulations on sustainability under the Solvent Emissions Directive, BAE tested Novec 72DE fluid as a replacement for its TCE-based cleaning system. The result? Reduced toxicity in the cleaning process combined with cleaning quality improvements.

  • BOC

    Industrial, medical and special gases provider BOC replaced a TCE-based cleaning operation with Novec 71DE fluid. Employees benefited from a safer cleaning process while BOC saved up to 60% on cleaning costs because of increased energy and fluid efficiency.

  • International aerospace parts manufacturer Smiths Aerospace found that it could cut its cleaning solvent costs in half by by switching to Novec 72DE fluid. Solvent recycling, lower losses to evaporation and improved performance drove savings throughout the cleaning process.

How do 3M Novec Engineered Fluids compare to nPB and TCE?

  • A safer, more sustainable replacement for nPB and TCE

    Typical vapor degreasing exposure exceeds the nPB exposure guideline 100 times over, making it an unsafe solution for this application. Like nPB, TCE has a low exposure guideline. Our newest heavy-duty cleaning solvent, 3M™ Novec™ 73DE Engineered Fluid, has an exposure guideline of 195 ppm (molar weighted average of the component 8-hour threshold limit values) , meaning it has an almost 2000x higher exposure guideline than nPB. Using nPB or TCE can require the need for costly facility upgrades and personal safety equipment.

    Learn more about using Novec Engineered Fluids for Solvent Cleaning & Vapor Degreasing

    Image is representational only.

  • Bar chart showing exposure guidelines for nPB (0.1 ppm), TCE (10 ppm) and Novec 73DE fluid (195 ppm) along with representational people in safety gear icons.

Cleaning Solvent Comparisons: How does Novec 73DE fluid compare to nPB and TCE?

See the impact of using 3M™ Novec™ Engineered Fluids to replace nPB or TCE with this side-by-side comparison.
  • *The 195 ppm value is the molar weighted average of the component 8-hour threshold limit values. **Margin of Safety in Use = Exposure Guideline / Exposure (assumed 10 ppmv 8-hour time weighted average)

Manufacturing Engineer dropping basket of brass hydrolic line connector parts into a vapor degreaser

Ready to try a Novec cleaning solvent?

Whether you are looking for an nPB alternative or a TCE replacement, we want to make your transition to a new cleaning solvent as simple as possible. With a range of Novec fluids to choose from, we recommend a product sample or cleaning trial to help find the best Novec solution for your needs.


Keep up to date on sustainability news

  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) sustainability regulations

    Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are Class II ozone depleting substances that are on a global phase-out schedule under the Montreal Protocol. The U.S. and EU have essentially completed their transition away from the use of HCFCs, while less developed countries are in earlier stages of the phase-out. Because HCFCs are no longer viable cleaning solvents, it’s time to choose a smarter, safer and more sustainable solvent for your vapor degreasing operations.

  • Subscribe for updates

    Our experts follow the latest news from the U.S. EPA, the EU and other global regulatory authorities governing TCE, HCFCs and more. Get quick summaries of new developments and their potential impact on your business and your cleaning processes – helping you avoid business disruption. Visit our newsletter archives or subscribe for more.

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