There are many reasons to avoid using trichloroethylene (TCE), and with recent headlines it’s more important than ever!
- Regulatory: TCE is a hazardous air pollutant (HAP), Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reportable, and one of the “TSCA 10”
- Human Health: TCE is a known human carcinogen, can affect the liver, kidneys, immune, reproductive, and central nervous systems, and may affect fetal development
- Environmental: TCE can contaminate soil, air, and water.
- Liability: Continued use of TCE exposes companies to health and environmental liability, as well a risk of negative publicity.
- Legislative: There are proposals to ban TCE use in cleaning and degreasing at the Federal and Minnesota levels.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet when it comes to replacing TCE in cleaning operations, but there are many options, including:
Halogenated solvents: Chemicals like nPB, DCE, and PERC may seem like “easy” drop-in substitutes, but many have serious health and environmental effects of their own, while others have not been tested enough to understand their risks. Any of these may be subject to increased regulation in the future. Plus, they cost 10 – 40x as much as TCE!
Aqueous cleaners: usually the safest choice but they require significant equipment changes, and may not meet the needs of some high precision cleaning processes.
Non-halogenated solvents: glycol ethers, siloxanes, and citrus based cleaners can be a safe and economical choice, but are highly flammable and may not work with some difficult geometries.
The TCE Alternatives Project will focus on replacing TCE with safer, yet effective options.
MnTAP, with assistance from experts at the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, will help current Minnesota TCE users make the switch to safer, effective alternatives. TURI has worked with dozens of companies to navigate the many options and find less hazardous cleaning processes that meet their needs.
- The first step is to understand your current process and cleaning needs including:
- part geometry and materials
- soils to be removed
- level of cleaning required
- Next, samples are collected, and solubility testing in TURI’s labs identifies cleaning products and methods that may meet your needs.
- We help with in-house testing to choose your preferred option.
- Finally, MnTAP provides technical assistance to support qualification and implementation of your selected alternative.
There is no direct cost to companies for participating in the TCE Alternatives Project. Assessments and alternatives testing will be provided at no cost. Participating companies are responsible for any capital or other costs related to implementing project recommendations. MnTAP will attempt to identify resources, such as grants and loans, to assist with implementation costs. Implementation is encouraged, but solely at the discretion of the company.
The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) is a part of the School of Public Health, division of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Our mission is to strengthen Minnesota businesses by improving efficiency while saving money through energy, water, and waste reduction. Our services are confidential, free, and non-regulatory.
The TCE Alternatives Project is funded by a US EPA and MPCA Performance Partnership Grant, and runs from February 2019 through September 2020. Timelines for implementation of TCE alternatives will vary depending on the complexity and size of the process involved, but are estimated to take between six and eighteen months from assessment to implementation.