Change is Coming…
Minnesota bans use of trichloroethylene
What is TCE?
Trichloroethylene, or as it is commonly known as TCE, is a chemical classified as a halogenated solvent and is used widely in industrial manufacturing due to being a low-cost, highly effective cleaning agent.
In the plastics industry, you often see TCE in aerosol sprays that are used to remove resin buildup, oils, grease, or other contamination that affect the part quality and shorten mold tool life.
It is effective on more difficult resins that often need to be heated and/or scraped from tooling, and an important part of aerosol sprays because of the non-flammable characteristics that make it “safer” to use around hot tools without the strong chemical smell that other solvents have.
Why is TCE getting banned?
The effective cleaning properties of TCE come with a downside, unfortunately. The EPA began evaluating TCE use in 2012, and in 2014 published a study that assessed the risk and found that increased exposure to TCE over time can lead to health issues (link)
In the years following the report the EPA continued to publish more guidelines and recommend restrictions on the use of TCE, and in 2020 Minnesota became the first state to enact a ban on the chemical (link).
Companies in Minnesota have until 2022 to either make a case to continue using TCE in their facility or find a suitable substitute to replace it. It is just a matter of time before other states follow Minnesota’s lead.
What to use instead of TCE?
Depending on the type of materials you want to be broken down, there are alternative cleaning agents available with similar performance and different environmental and health effects. Note that these alternatives may have other limitations such as strong odor or flammability that you must take into consideration. Check the MSDS for the product and verify with state regulations, your company policy, or safety personnel whether or not you can use the product in your facility.
Here are some common resins used in injection molding, and some suggested alternative solvents to using TCE:
*Note that these are suggestions based on solvents commonly found in the market. The suggested alternatives may/may not work as well as TCE in your application. We typically recommend testing products first and checking MSDS information prior to use.
Plastics and Solvent Compatibility Chart
- Acetone, MEK, Naptha, Toluene
- Toluene, MEK, d-Limonene
HDPE & LDPE
- Xylene, Toluene, MEK, Acetone
- Heptane, Xylene, MEK
- MEK, Toluene