Solvents lead EPA top 10 hazardous list

Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act in action.

Seven out of the first ten chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) are solvents.

The role of the EPA is to determine if these solvents “present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.” Chemicals were selected based on the following criteria

  1. Hazard and the public’s potential exposure
  2. Persistent and or bioaccumulative chemicals top the list
  3. Recommendations from public, industry, environmental and public health groups

Some chemicals are present in consumer goods whereas others are used in a manufacturing setting.

I am interested in the following information

  • The function of the chemical
  • Why it is hazardous
  • Whether it is in consumer products

This blog discusses four solvents on the list, whereas the first three chemicals were discussed in an earlier blog.

Carbon tetrachloride, a solvent declining in use

This organic solvent is very good at dissolving fats and oils. It is found in commercial and industrial products, although its demand has decreased over the past few decades.

Carbon tetrachloride was used in fire extinguishers, as a precursor to refrigerants, as a dry cleaning agent for textiles, and it was even found in lava lamps. However, it is also a chlorofluorocarbon, which is a family of chemicals responsible for ozone depletion.  This is the main reason for its declining use.

This chemical is a liver toxin and it damages the central nervous system.  Chronic exposure has been linked to cancer.

Methylene Chloride, a solvent found in the food supply

This chemical occurs naturally in oceans and volcanoes, but it is also made in an industrial setting. Its largest source of emissions is from industrial sources and not oceans or volcanoes.

It is used in many different types of consumer products, and therefore may be present in water, air, inside houses or buildings, in groundwater and soil.

Methylene chloride is a paint stripper, and a degreaser (dissolves grease). It is also present in the food supply because it is used to decaffeinate coffee and tea, and to prepare hops and other types of flavorings.

In an industrial environment, methylene chloride is used as an aerosol spray propellant, and therefore as a blowing agent for polyurethane foams. (Commonly found in mattresses and furniture.) Finally, it is found in the garment printing industry to remove heat sealed garment transfers.

Methylene chloride is extremely volatile, and therefore an inhalation hazard. Upon exposure, it can cause dizziness, fatigue, nausea and headaches. It is broken down by the body to form carbon monoxide, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning and ultimately  death. Finally, it is also a potential carcinogen.

N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP), an industrial solvent

NMP is used in the petrochemicals and plastics industries. It dissolves a wide range of polymers and is often the solvent of choice for some textiles and resins.

Its main function is in manufacturing, however it is also present in some consumer products such as paint strippers.

The chemical is present in drinking water and indoor environments and is a reproductive toxicant and a carcinogen.

Tetrachloroethylene, a dry cleaning solvent

Tetrachloroethylene, commonly known as perchloroethylene or perc, is a sweet smelling solvent used extensively to dry clean textiles because it is really good at dissolving fats and removing stains. In addition, it is used as a paint stripper and to degrease metal parts in cars.

It is present in drinking water, indoor environments, ambient air, and groundwater, soil.

It is a probable human carcinogen that enters the body through the skin. It can dissolve natural fats found in the skin, thus causing skin irritation.

Impacts to your business

Questions to consider:

  • Does a product you manufacture or maybe even buy as a consumer possibly contain one of the hazardous chemicals listed?
  • How do you keep up to date with key chemicals regulations?

For help with any issue associated with chemicals, contact Amanda Cattermole at (415) 412 8406 or We can help you develop powerful solutions to protect your company and brand reputation and result in safer products manufactured in cleaner supply chains.

Tips and Insights contains information to help you make informed chemical management decisions. Each post highlights a particular topic and includes questions you may want to consider for your business.

Posted on: Feb 17, 2017 in Regulations

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