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A responsible industry

Cooperation with public authorities and research bodies

Industrial manufacturers of glycol ethers devote substantial resources to obtaining an in-depth knowledge of their products, thus helping to continually ensure their safe use.

Industry works with both the academic world and the public authorities to assess the risks and strengthen safety measures:

  • The European Oxygenated Solvent Producers Association (OSPA) contributed towards the financing of a European data review published in 1995 (ECETOC report, 1995/64), as well as to the current ECETOC update which is now in the final editing stages. This technical report is a comprehensive review of all the known toxicological data on 35 (check) glycol ethers and glymes. The report brings up to date the earlier review by including all the new toxicological data, especially on the commercially important glycol ethers.
  • The members of OSPA work in close cooperation with the European authorities for the development of risk assessment programmes.
  • Manufacturers are also always ready to provide the public authorities with any information at their disposal. Producers have, for example, committed themselves globally, as part of the “High Production Volume Chemicals” programme, to providing, by 2004, agreed data on the toxicity of the 16 most commonly used glycol ethers.
  • The ” Syndicat de l’Industrie Chimique Organique de Synthèse et de la biochimie ” (SICOS) (association of the synthetic organic chemical Industry and biochemistry) cooperated in the production of the joint experts’ report led by INSERM (national institute for health and medical research in France) in 1999, by providing the information in its possession. The results of this study form a basis of the ongoing discussion between the industry and public authorities for the improvement of users’ safety.
  • For the glycol ethers classified as reprotoxic, Industry has put in place a charter to make sure that the substances are only sold into compliant applications and uses, where strict exposure control measures are in place.
  • Industry also contributed to define the appropriate limitations of certain uses of some glycol ethers by providing relevant data to the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP – part of DG Health and Consumers). Click here for more information.

Information and prevention amongst users

The safety of employees using glycol ethers has continually improved over the years as knowledge of the properties of these substances has expanded.

  • This is the result of changes in the regulations and of a very high degree of involvement of the glycol ethers manufacturing industry in terms of providing information to their customers. Aware of the potential risks that can result from the misuse of some types of glycol ethers, the manufacturers pursue a policy of active prevention with respect to their distributors and customers.

In accordance with the regulations, glycol ether manufacturers always provide a safety data sheet to users.

  • This clearly shows the hazards of the relevant product and the regulatory provisions in force: the exposure limits for industrial use and the prevention measures required for handling the product safely.
  • This sheet must be used by the user to assess the risks and must be passed on to company medical officers.

Monitoring glycol ethers in the commercial chain

The “Responsible Care” programme:

  • The 7 European producers of glycol ethers all adhere to the European Chemical Industry “Responsible Care” programme. This programme brings a commitment to continuously improving the performance in terms of the protection of environment, health and safety.
  • As part of this commitment, glycol ether producers support the programme of product stewardship of the European Solvent Industry Group (ESIG).
  • ESIG has also produced a guide to good practices to promote the safe use of solvents, including glyol ethers, in the work place.

Close collaboration with distributors and users:

  • In order to monitor the use of glycol ethers classified as “Toxic for reproduction” from category 2, the glycol ether producers have put in place programmes aimed at checking the relevance of applications and compliance with safety instructions. The industry and the European chemical trade federation (Fédération Européenne du Commerce Chimique – FECC) are committed to implementing this policy and to monitoring it.

An active policy of substituting some glycol ethers

OSPA members pay particular attention to promoting alternatives to glycol ethers classified as “Toxic for reproduction”:

  • For several years, OSPA has therefore been recommending a policy restricting the marketing of these glycol ethers to industrial applications that do not yet have an obvious substitute solution (such as the manufacture of medicines to cure cancer or antifreeze additives for aircraft fuels).
  • Thus, for example, the use in Europe of glycol ethers classified as toxic for reproduction from category 2 has continually fallen and has now reached very marginal volumes (less than 1% of European glycol ethers market).

These substances can be used only in an industrial environment where exposure levels and risks must be controlled and where there is no technical alternative in terms of a substitute. The customer must ensure that Occupational Exposures/Emissions are within the legal constraints. AND that there is no remaining residue of these glycol ethers left in the end product.