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    The end is near for nPB in Europe and it’s time to act

    August 18, 2015

    • Since 2012, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has listed n-propyl bromide (nPB) as a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) and now aims to further restrict its use by adding it as a candidate for inclusion in the SVHC Authorization List (Annex XIV) under REACH. If included in the list, nPB can no longer be placed on the market or used after a given date, unless an authorization is granted for its specific use, or the use is exempted from authorization.

      This July, ECHA recommended that nPB be added to the Annex XIV Authorization List under the REACH regulation. This development will be advanced over the next 12 months in Europe and, if approved, nPB could be required to have authorization for use or import. This is important news to the cleaning solvents industry and, in particular, to existing users and suppliers of nPB because implications are likely to include further restrictions, fewer exemptions for use and eventually an outright ban in Europe.

      Users and suppliers need to act now because of the time it will take to investigate, evaluate, purchase, and update or replace their existing nPB-based cleaning equipment and solvents. Fortunately, there are industry-trusted sustainable alternatives to nPB that not only meet existing legislative requirements, but also provide excellent cleaning and degreasing performance. Low in toxicity and environmentally sustainable, 3M™ Novec™ 72DA and 72DE Engineered Fluids are high performing nPB alternatives for precision cleaning applications.

      nPB’s unstable history 
      Introduced some years ago, nPB was widely used as a solvent to clean metals and electronics components as a replacement for other cleaning solutions that were then subject to legislative restriction. However, over the past few years, there have been growing concerns about its environmental, health and safety profile.

      • 1999 – The VOC Solvent Emissions Directive (SED) 1999-13-EC classified nPB as a “carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductive toxin” (CMR) and specifies that its consumption to be restricted to less than one tonne per year. 
      • 2013 – U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issues a hazard alert for nPB that states, “1-Bromopropane [nPB] is a solvent that is used in degreasing, dry cleaning, spray adhesives, and aerosol solvents. Occupational exposure to [nPB] has been linked to neurological illnesses. Animal studies show that [nPB] may also cause cancer and reproductive disorders. Controls and personal protective equipment are available to protect workers from [nPB] exposure.”
      • 2014 – The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) publishes new threshold limit value - time weighted average (TLV - TWA) exposure guidelines, which significantly lowered the threshold for nPB from 10 parts per million (ppm) to 0.1 ppm. As part of this action, ACGIH also reclassified nPB as category A3, or a "Confirmed Animal Carcinogen with Unknown Relevance to Humans. Due to worker exposures potentially exceeding this new threshold, nPB may no longer be a viable solution for use some industry applications, including vapor degreasing.
      • 2015 – nPB meets the criteria for classification as toxic for reproduction in accordance with Article 57 (c) of REACH and ECHA includes nPB in candidate list of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) for Annex XI Authorization List.

      So what’s next?

      The latest restrictions on precision cleaning solvents represent probably the biggest shake-up we’ve seen in the industry for some years. The restrictions put pressure on the supply chain to seek alternatives and also represent an opportunity to evaluate the latest developments in cleaning technology and take advantage of improved processes. 
      Now that the European ban on nPB is a real possibility, it’s time for the industry to consider precision cleaning with sustainable fluids like 3M™ Novec™ Engineered Fluids. With excellent cleaning performance and materials compatibility, low toxicity and low global warming potentials, Novec fluids could be exactly the solution you need.

      Contact a 3M technical expert today for help in finding the best 3M solution for your needs.

      3M and Novec are trademarks of 3M Company.

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