The solvents produced by ESIG members have been thoroughly tested for their health, safety and environmental properties. The European solvents industry is committed to complying with and, in some cases exceeding, health, safety, and environmental (HSE) requirements. Maintaining the highest levels of safety and health standards is an absolute priority. This is achieved by conducting continuous scientific research and development to improve products and by providing health, safety, and environmental information to users on an ongoing basis. The following is an overview of some industry HSE initiatives:
Some solvents need to be managed carefully due to their volatility and general flammability, in particular during loading and unloading, storage and when using large quantities. The solvents industry works closely with transporters, distributors and customers to ensure that adequate precautions and procedures are in place when handling solvents. In addition, ESIG also publishes several guidelines on the safe handling of solvents e.g. "Best Practice Guideline 4, Flammability: a safety guide for users". These documents are available here.
Solvents are subject to the European Union's classification and labelling requirements that identify the main hazards of a product through symbols and risk/safety phrases on container labels. For example, where appropriate labels include information about:
The main route of exposure to solvents is via inhalation. Occupational exposure limits (OELs) set the airborne concentration of a substance that workers can be exposed to, day after day without any adverse health effects. OELs are normally set for an 8 hour day and a 40 hour week and are continuously reviewed by national and EU authorities. OELs for the majority of hydrocarbon and oxygenated solvents are set between 10 and 1,000 parts per million depending on the volatility and toxicity of an individual substance.
The solvents industry is also working with scientists and regulators to understand the effects of solvents. One specific activity has been the development of OELs for hydrocarbon solvents where legal OELS are not available. A special solvents industry task force has developed guidelines for a uniform methodology to calculate OELs for complex hydrocarbon solvents and blends. In Europe and the USA, this methodology is used by hydrocarbon solvent manufacturers to provide harmonised and consistent OEL values to solvent users.
More information on OELs can be found at the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (OSHA) website.
For the past 20 years, long before it became a legal requirement in Europe (legislation was passed in 1992), solvent producers have distributed Safety Data Sheets on their products. These datasheets, which are continuously updated, provide comprehensive safety and health information including:
Advice on the safe handling and use of solvents is provided by the European solvents industry under its Product Stewardship programme. This is part of a wider chemical industry commitment to Responsible Care® which focuses on the continual improvement of safety, health and environmental performance. For more information see also the product stewardship section in this website.