A question you might be asking right now now if you are using nPB (n Propyl Bromide) is “do I have to get out of it?” As you may have been hearing some mixed messages about the toxicity of nPB and also some rumblings about changes to the regulations around it.
But, does all that mean you need to replace nPB right now? The short easy answer is “no” but the longer answer is – it is really up to you based on your corporate requirements: production needs, health & safety mandates and cost constraints.
For the purposes of this blog post, we are going to focus on nPB in vapor degreasing applications. There are other uses of nPB that we will address in other posts (like use in cold wipe, aerosols, etc) but for now one of the major applications is its use in vapor degreasing. nPB solvents have been very effective vapor degreasing solvents – because nPB works as well or better than TCE. nPB are TCE replacement solvents because they provide comparable cleaning with similar physical properties to TCE.
nPB solvents still offer many benefits like not being NESHAP regulated, shipping by standard carrier, being non-flammable & non-chlorinated and not being a hazardous waste…all clear benefits over TCE. These are still KEY benefits that add a great deal of continued value.
However, there has been some concern over the exposure levels of nPB…and at this point, Federal OSHA does not currently have a specific exposure standard for 1-BP. The hazard alert on 1-Bromopropane (nPB), does clearly mention that over exposure to nPB can cause illness, reproductive disorders and animal studies show it may cause cancer.
Clearly there is a need for mindfulness when using nPB (or any industrial solvent) in any application including vapor degreasing. Limiting exposure to the solvent by having hoists or other automated systems reduces worker exposure; having properly functioning refrigeration/cooling coils is a must – with both primary and secondary coils providing additional solvent containment. Operating the vapor degreaser in an open environment – with open space around the unit (but NOT an overhead vent) will help reduce solvent consentration and one of the most simple things is keeping the lid closed when the vapor degreaser is not in use.
If you are still concerned about nPB exposure and its H&S impacts – there are other solvents and alternative cleaning processes that you can explore. Fluorinated- based solvents allow you to keep vapor degreasing and many are effective cleaners – albeit more expensive. Or you can move out of solvent based cleaning all together and consider aqueous systems or alternative solvent cleaning combinations.
And this is where we are a bit biased, vapor degreasing is still a very efficient, effective way to clean lots of parts, fast and completely…so exploring ways to reduce solvent exposure, upgrading the equipment, or moving to different chemistries still might be a smarter move than getting out of vapor degreasing together.
nPB is going to be around for a long time – so you have time to explore your options and make a decision that makes sense for your operations, your people, and your productivity.