Anyone who is familiar with vapor degreasing or degreasing solvents is most likely also familiar with trichloroethylene, also known as TCE. The halocarbon solvent is clear, non-flammable with a slight chloroform odor, and used in a variety of industrial applications. Read on to learn more about the uses for trichloroethylene, the dangers associated with this popular chemical, and the current high demand for TCE.
Industrial Uses for TCE
The solvent is used in specific industrial applications, such as:
- Degreasing – It is primarily used for degreasing metal equipment and as a vapor degreasing solvent. It’s nonflammability and high boiling point enable it to successfully remove stubborn debris and grease.
- Additive – It is sometimes added to specific adhesives, spot removers, paint thinners, and paint removers.
- Refrigerant Production – It is also heavily utilized in hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant manufacturing.
TCE is also known for its toxicity, as the hazardous solvent is a known carcinogen and can cause various negative neurological and physical health effects, especially towards industrial workers that are consistently exposed. It has also been shown to contaminate groundwater and drinking water sources through storage tank leaks and spills, affecting unsuspecting people and potentially harming their physical health.
Even though the solvent has been dealing with increased regulation because of its toxicity and has even been banned in many countries, there is still currently a high demand for TCE.
Why Is There a High Demand for TCE?
Though certain factors like COVID-19 affected hundreds of chemical manufacturing facilities by temporarily halting production and causing labor shortages that are still persisting today, the economy has bounced back, resulting in a sharp increase in demand for both vapor degreasing solvents and for HFC refrigerants.
Trichloroethylene suppliers have not been able to meet the demands from both industrial sectors, resulting in a spike in TCE prices, affecting the companies and consumers who rely on the solvent for their industrial needs.
Fortunately, though the trichloroethylene shortage may continue to persist through the rest of 2022, there are options available that can not only effectively replace TCE, but can ensure worker safety and be more cost-effective, since companies will not have to set aside more effort to comply with certain regulations.
Looking for Sustainable Replacements for TCE?
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