NPB Phaseout: The EPA Petitions to Add NPB to the List of HAPs

N propyl bromide (a.k.a. NPB) is an industrial cleaning agent that became a popular replacement for chlorinated cleaning solvents in the latter decades of the 20th Century. More specifically, NPB became a popular drop-in solution that replaced cleaners containing the chemical compound trichloroethylene, which became commercially available in the U.S. in the 1920s.

For many years, NPB cleaners were regarded as safer solutions than their chlorinated counterparts. However, in the past 20 years, the deleterious effects of chronic NPB use on humans and the environment have become widely known, so much so that the push to regulate the use of NPB has culminated in the EPA creating a formal petition to add the controversial cleaning agent to its official list of regulated and banned hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).

Moves Leading Up to the Petition
The EPA isn’t the first organization to publicly recognize the dangers of unfettered NPB use. Many states, municipalities, and safety organizations in the U.S. red flagged the use of NPB long before the EPA drew up a petition in February 2015 to recategorize the compound as an HPA. Below is a list of some of the more notable actions that were taken to communicate the toxicity and dangerous side effects of NPB to companies and organizations prior to the current year

  • In 2003, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) established usage criteria for NPB, stating that a “time-weighted average threshold limit value for an 8-hour exposure at 10 parts per million (ppm)” was highly recommended for safety.
  • in 2008, the U.S. CDC stated that the use of NPB as a perchloroethylene replacement “may require adjustment and modification of equipment, improved ventilation, and use of personal protective equipment [(PPE)].”
  • In 2013, the U.S. National Toxicology Program conducted a peer-review panel that unanimously recommended NPB solvents to be classified as “reasonably anticipated human carcinogens.”
  • In 2014, the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Division created a Hazard Alert that stated NPB “is not regulated to protect workers, consumers or the environment”.

These moves and others by notable safety organizations undoubtedly spurred the EPA to step up to the plate and begin what appears to be the first phase of an NPB phaseout: a petition to add the cleaning agent to the organization’s list of HAPs. For workers and natural environments that are exposed to NPB, an official NPB phaseout cannot come too quickly. However, for companies and organizations that use the agent for critical cleaning operations, a phaseout is understandably not as welcome, as it would require them to identify safe replacements for NPB.

Choosing a New Cleaning Solvent
Users of NPB that stay abreast of EPA regulations have undoubtedly heard horror stories about what can happen if a dangerous solvent isn’t replaced until it is banned or heavily regulated. Critical cleaning operations can grind to halt if a solvent replacement plan isn’t in place, and that can spell doom for the bottom line of entities whose operations are highly solvent dependant.

However, as horrific as such a situation may seem to corporate brass, it is easy to avoid. By working with a producer of cleaning solutions that have an excellent safety profile for humans and the environment, NPB users can proactively replace their current solvents with ones that won’t be scrutinized by the EPA, and will thus avoid subjection to the impending NPB phaseout.

This is what Ecolink helps companies and organizations do. We have long been aware of the dangers of NPB usage. That is why we proactively created solutions that offer the same efficacy as NPB solvents but have a much better safety profile and broader usage parameters. If you need to prepare for the NPB phaseout, we have the cleaning solutions to help you do it.

For assistance identifying cleaners that can serve as drop-in replacements for NPB products, call us today at (800) 563-1305 to schedule a free consultation, or refer to the contact page on our website. With us working as your trusted provider of industrial-grade cleaning solvents, the NPB phaseout can come and go without affecting any of your business-critical cleaning needs.