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’s (OSPA) Glycol Ethers product group contributed towards the financing of a European data review published in 1995 (ECETOC report, 1995/64), as well as to the subsequent update addressing the Toxicology of glycol Ethers and its Relevance to Man (ECETOC reports 2005/95 Vol I & Vol II). This technical report is a comprehensive review of the available toxicological data on 44 glycol ethers and glymes.
  • The members of OSPA Glycol Ethers have developed extensive dossiers in compliance with the REACH regulation assessing the risk associated with the various glycol ethers. These dossiers are continuously updated as new toxicological information becomes available. The Cefic REACH dossier improvement action plan is the guiding principle.
  • Manufacturers are also always ready to provide the public authorities with any information at their disposal. 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.
  • Since 2021 the OSPA Glycol Ethers Group is contributing to a Swiss research project called “Building a strategy to assess the neurotoxicity of solvents”.
  • Every update of relevant chapters in Patty’s toxicology, a premier reference for toxicological information on a large number of industrial chemicals that pose potential health hazards is carefully reviewed by industry experts.

Information and prevention among 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 several guides to good practices to promote the safe use of solvents, including glycol ethers.

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 1 has continually fallen and has now reached very marginal volumes.

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.