Industrial cleaning solvents aren’t something most people think about on a daily basis, at least I hardly do. Interestingly enough some policy changes have forced companies to change how they manufacture solvents and have also changed what the demand end of the spectrum too. Companies that once used toxic solvents have improved their internal cleaning process so they don’t need to purchase hazardous cleaning supplies.
Both the U.S. and Europe have imposed stricter restrictions on solvents during the past 20 years, particularly with European passage of the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) legislation in 2007, which requires toxicity evaluations on thousands of substances. To comply with solvent-emission regulation, manufacturers have the option to install engineering controls to limit emissions. In the dry cleaning industry, for example, emissions of perchloroethylene have been severely curtailed as users have installed specially designed cleaning and recycling equipment to decrease emissions by as much as 90 percent (see related chart).