EPA: Most Chlorinated Paraffins Must Go


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated it could eliminate mid- and long-chain chlorinated paraffins in U.S. commerce as early as May 2016 using its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act, alarming CP manufacturers, who say elimination would hit them and their customers hard across many applications.

Chlorinated paraffins are chlorinated alkanes that have carbon chain lengths ranging from 10 to 38 with varying degrees of chlorination. They are used in metalworking fluids as extreme-pressure agents, especially in difficult drawing, forming and removal operations.

In 2012, the two largest suppliers of chlorinated paraffins to the United States – Dover Chemical and Ineos Chlor – were fined by the EPA for selling short-chain (C10-C13), medium-chain (C14-C17), and long-chain (C18-C20) products the agency deemed not properly listed under TSCA. As part of their resolution with EPA, both companies agreed not to sell short-chain materials. Both were asked to submit Pre-Manufacturing Notifications for medium- and long-chain products as part of the settlement. The companies were allowed to continue shipping these MCCP and LCCP products to their customers.

A third company, Qualice LLC of Hamlet, N.C., in 2013 submitted PMNs seeking permission to make and sell medium-, long- and very long-chain (C21 and higher) CP in the United States. PMNs for three of its VLCCPs cleared, and it obtained new Chemical Abstracts Service numbers for them.

In January, EPA sent letters to the three PMN submitters – Dover Chemical, Ineos Chlor Americas and Qualice – indicating that, based on the agencys draft risk assessment, the mid-chain and long-chain CP could no longer be produced past May 2016. The other option cited by EPA was to pull the PMNs and stop making the substances immediately.

At that point, members of two trade groups, the Chlorinated Paraffins Industry Association and Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association, called for a meeting with EPA, which took place Feb. 18. The agency requested more environmental release data. Weve submitted additional data and comments Tom Kelley, Dover Chemicals global business director for chlorinated paraffins, told Lube Report. We are in the process of gathering more accurate environmental release data for the EPA to use in their modeling.

In early April, EPA sent a letter on the comments regarding the agencys draft risk assessment of the PMN letters, Kelley noted. They basically maintained their original assessment of MCCPs and LCCPs.

CPIA, its members and ILMA now hope to convince EPA that elimination of CP is a bad idea altogether – or at least that the May 2016 date for elimination is unrealistic.

Im optimistic that we can find a way to come up with a reasonable path forward that meets, if not all, most of the parties needs, Andrew Jaques, manager of the CPIA, told Lube Report. Were trying to generate information so we can go back to EPA and either get their thinking changed on this drop-dead deadline or change their thinking period on the overall conclusions – really, both.

Kelley echoed that, noting, We havent given up on trying to prove that [elimination] is a bad idea. Certainly thats our fall-back position. The second approach – to move that May 2016 date – is where a lot of our focus is now. Its not going to be able to be met by most of our customers, and its certainly not possible for the Department of Defense to meet that kind of deadline. One of our main goals is to move that date, to get a more workable date for the industry if in fact were unsuccessful in getting the PMNs issued.

It would appear that if these were taken off market in May 2016, there would be very significant disruptions to aerospace, defense and other industries, Jaques said.

Ramifications of CP Elimination

The EPA has estimated that 150 million pounds of CP are used yearly in the United States, but an industry source estimates that U.S. consumption is closer to 50 million or 60 million pounds, with 40 percent or less of that going into metalworking fluids.

The lubricants industry continues to use chlorinated paraffin as additives in metalworking fluids for many types of operations. There are very significant reasons for why they do that, Jaques pointed out. Basically, its because the alternatives dont work. Theyre making parts that have incredible tolerances because theyre going into aerospace, medical or defense applications, or in some cases all of the above. We think there is a role for [CP] for quite some time moving forward, because you cant change the metallurgy and the chemistry. Jaques noted that for the U.S. Department of Defense, CP is often used in aerospace and other manufacturing.

Dovers Kelley said that while it may be more feasible to find CP alternatives for non-metalworking applications, in most cases, they would remain more expensive. It would put CP suppliers customers at a competitive disadvantage against competitors with products coming in from overseas that are still able to use CP, Kelley said. From a technical standpoint you can probably do it, but from a business and economic standpoint, its going to put them at a disadvantage.

Military Applications

ILMAs legal counsel Jeffrey Leiter, of Leiter & Cramer PLLC, said, We believe there are a number of applications for which chlorine-free alternatives either dont work or havent been successfully developed. Weve told EPA, if youre going to eliminate all CPs from the market a year from now – May of 2016 – youre going to create a huge disruption, especially for the military.

ILMA participated in an April 9 webinar with representatives from the Department of Defense, the Industrial Fasteners Institute and CPIA. Were in the process of going out and trying to gather some specific information, so we can get as comprehensive a list as possible of all the applications where CP-containing fluids are used to make some parts or some widgets for the military, Leiter said. And more importantly, to get together examples of efforts made to use chlorine-free materials and if they failed, just what the problem was.

At DOD, the applications where CP is used are critical, Dovers Kelly said, and no chlorine-free alternatives have been found. Examples aviation fasteners, small-diameter stainless steel tubing used on missiles, and brass ammunition shell casings. Most of those are in the metalworking area, with some of the hard-to-work-with metals like titanium and stainless steel, Kelley said. There are also a lot of applications outside of metalworking that the DOD would be purchasing as well. Although alternatives may exist for some of those items, they are not going to be as competitive and the approval process for any change would take longer than one year, particularly for [fire-resistant] applications that have UL listings.

Kelley explained that in the metalworking fluids area, it would take DOD three to five years to test and approved an alternative, if one could be found. Certainly that process would require beyond the May 2016 date to get it fully approved for DOD applications. Thats another reason the date just isnt workable.

Risk Assessment

In December, EPA also provided a draft risk assessment on mid- and long-chain CP. The agency expressed concerns for risk to environmental organisms, persistence and bioaccumulation potential, though EPA did not find a human health concern. According to Jaques, EPA acknowledged its exposure estimates were high, in an attempt to develop a worst case assessment. The agency also didnt use information provided by PMN submitters in its exposure assessment.

Any time you do exposure and risk assessment, you make choices and assumptions, Jaques explained. Their assumptions appear to be very different than what the industry assumes happens with these products in the real world. Theyre going to get different results just based on that. We think that there is legitimate data that shows they can be used in a safe and responsible manner.

ILMAs Leiter outlined some of EPAs conservative assumptions. EPA is assuming they go into water-based fluids – where we believe the majority of CPs currently in use go into straight oils, he said. And we estimate probably somewhere around 28,000 facilities are using CP-containing fluids, while EPAs data says 776. Divide the volume into those locations, and it makes it look like theres a huge amount of stuff going into the environment.

Jaques noted its not typical to have a PMN assessment done on a chemical thats been in commerce for a number of years.

Leiter echoed that, noting that it has probably been 30 years since EPA was able to use Section 6 of TSCA to ban a chemical thats in commerce. So EPA came up with the strategy they would treat chlorinated paraffins as not properly registered under the TSCA inventory, Leiter explained. On that basis, they would treat the PMNs as a new chemical coming into the market, even though its been used in commerce since the 1930s. Its a widely used chemical that EPA is treating as if it was never used in commerce before.

Kelley remains hopeful EPA will call for a peer review on CP. I feel strongly if it were up for peer review, and we had experts in various fields doing the review, theyd come to the same conclusions we did as far as the persistence and bio-accumulation of chlorinated paraffin, he said.

Right now, were trying to build a coalition of groups that would be affected by this to make the case to EPA, and elsewhere if necessary, that this is a problem, Leiter said. If you look at the way TSCA is structured, if a new chemical is coming into the market, EPA relies on data provided by PMN submitters, and can make a determination. Thats not subject to any kind of public notice and comment.