Toxicological risk at workplace and toxicity as Life Cycle Assessment impact category: Substitution of solvents as an example

Substitution of hazardous substances against less hazardous ones is a central requirement of the European Chemical Regulation REACH (European Regulation 1907/2006/EC). Hazardous substances emitted from products may not only affect the worker; drift off and distribution in the environment may finally result in exposure of the general population. This potential threat to health is covered by the impact category “toxicity” in Life Cycle Assessments. In this study, the authors present a case of a substitution of volatile organic compounds in a reactive varnish, and compare the “old” formulation with the “new” formulation against health risk to the worker, and concerning the Life Cycle Assessment impact category “toxicity”. The “old” formulation contained Naphtha (petroleum), hydrodesulfurised, heavy and Solvent naphtha (petroleum), light, aromatic. In the new formulation, both naphthas were replaced by n-Butylacetate, 1-Ethoxy-2-propyl acetate and Ethyl-3-ethoxy propionate. In the European Union, the naphthas are classified as mutagens and carcinogens category 1, officially. However, if benzene is below 0.1 %, registrants in the EU proposed to omit this classification, and todays naptha products on the market obviously have benzene contents below 0.1 %. On a first glance, the improvement for workplace safety introduced by the substitution, therefore, is comparatively small, as it is for toxicity in Life Cycle Assessment. However, when background knowledge concerning chemical production processes of naphtha is included, benzene below a content of 0.1 % needs to be taken into consideration, and the benefit of substitution is more obvious.

Authors: Schupp T, Georg PA, Kirstein G. ;Full Source: EXCLI J. 2017 Jan 10; 16:40-51. doi: 10.17179/excli2016-764. eCollection 2017. ;