Chlorinated Paraffins Saga Continues


The U.S. metalworking fluids industry is waiting to learn how the United States will regulate medium- and long-chain chlorinated paraffins. And waiting. And waiting.

Chlorinated paraffins have been the target of regulators for years, and according to experts including Neil Canter of Chemical Solutions, Willow Grove, Pa., this scrutiny is apt to continue for some time with no end point in sight. Canter summed up recent developments in the United States and Canada at the STLE annual meeting in May.

In September 2009, the U.S. EPA put in place an action plan for short-chain and other chlorinated paraffins, Canter said. EPA was concerned that certain chlorinated paraffins were not on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory, regardless of chain length.

In the United States, CPs are classed by carbon chain length and by degree of chlorination, and are sorted into short-chain (C10 to C13), intermediate-chain (C14-C17), and long-chain products (C18-C30). After the National Toxicology Program designated short-chain CPs as carcinogenic in 1989, many fluid formulators switched to medium- and long-chain products, dropping short-chains entirely.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now is scrutinizing medium-chain CPs for their persistence in the environment and potential bioaccumulation in humans and wildlife. It has estimated that 150 million pounds of CP (all types) are used yearly in the United States, although others say its not even half that any more. One LubesnGreases source puts U.S. consumption at 50 million to 60 million pounds, and said most of that is used in making plastics, with 40 percent or less going into metalworking fluid applications.

The TSCA inventory was created in 1975, and certain products were grandfathered in with specific Chemical Abstracts Service numbers as approved by EPA. A CAS number is a unique numeric identifier that serves as a link to detailed information about a specific chemical substance. However, Canter said, EPA then claimed discrepancies between actual chlorinated paraffins being produced and imported into the U.S. and those listed on the TSCA Inventory.

As a result, EPA requested that suppliers of chlorinated paraffins in the U.S. file Pre-Manufacturing Notifications (PMNs), meaning their products were no longer on the Inventory and they had to go through the process of putting them back on. EPAs problem was that the descriptions of products currently on the Inventory were not specific enough, Canter said.

Last year, the two largest suppliers of chlorinated paraffins to the United States – Dover Chemical and Ineos Clor – were fined by the EPA for selling short-, medium-and long-chain products that the agency deemed to be not properly listed under TSCA. As part of their resolution with EPA, both companies agreed to stop selling short-chain materials. And both were asked to submit PMNs for medium- and long-chain products as part of the settlement, Canter said. But most importantly, the companies were allowed to continue shipping these products to their customers.

Tom Kelley, global business director for chlorinated paraffins at Dover Chemical in Dover, Ohio, emphasized that his company stopped making short-chain CPs years before EPA decided that separate CAS numbers were needed for each group of chain lengths. Dover submitted PMNs for all its current products in March 2012 and is still waiting for an answer. EPA is supposed to rule on all PMNs within 90 days, but due to the unique situation we are faced with, extensions for this PMN process have been requested and granted, Kelley told LubesnGreases. We could still be years away from a decision on medium- and long-chain Cps.

EPAs concern centers around certain environmental risks, like bioaccumulation and persistence in sedimentation, Kelley pointed out, and not human health effects. During the PMN process, Dover and Ineos can continue to make and sell their medium- and long-chain CPs. Suppliers that do not have an agreement or PMN in place with EPA, cannot.

Meanwhile, Canada under the Domestic Substances List (DSL) laid out more specific descriptions for chlorinated paraffins. And CAS numbers on the DSL are not on the TSCA Inventory. In 2102, Canter noted, I said that EPA wanted to go to Canadian-style CAS numbers. But now, EPA does not want to use these types of CAS numbers and wants to assign totally new numbers.

In January, Environment Canada prohibited the use of short-chain (C10 to C13) chlorinated paraffins, saying they posed a long-term threat to the environment and aquatic life. That still leaves C14 to C20 products for Environment Canada to address.

EPA also has established a new category, very long-chain chlorinated paraffins, in addition to short-, medium- and long-chain, Canter explained. Short- and medium-chain remain the same (C10 to C13 and C14 to C17). Long-chain is now C18 to C20, and very long-chain is C21 to C30-plus.

One new company, Qualice LLC of Hamlet, N.C., has submitted PMNs seeking permission to make and sell medium-, long- and very long-chain chlorinated paraffins in the United States. PMNs for three of its very long-chain products have cleared, and new CAS numbers were obtained for these. However, Canter noted at STLE, These materials are more viscous than currently used medium- and long-chain products, and there will be challenges in formulating with them.

Last month, EPA published a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) covering Qualices very long-chain CPs. This means that others can sell an equivalent product using the same CAS number that Qualice obtained, provided their product complies with the test conditions of the SNUR. The tests specifically cover the chemicals environmental fate in freshwater sediment, according to Qualices product manager, James MacNeil.

While a victory, the SNUR leaves Qualice with just one arrow in its CP quiver: very long-chains. It would like to make medium- and long- chain CPs as well, but EPA continues to delay its decision on those.

The environmental assessment for intermediate-chain products is at least a year overdue, MacNeil said resignedly. Reams of data have been submitted and resubmitted, but EPA will not reveal anything about its plans until theyre ready – and no one knows when that will be.

That echoes what Canter concluded at the STLE meeting: EPA has cleared very long-chain chlorinated paraffins and chlorinated olefins for manufacture in the U.S., and it is still figuring out what to do with medium-and long-chain chlorinated materials. My supposition is we will eventually have an answer.