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Promising biobased alternatives to controversial polar aprotic solvents

Publication date: 06 December 2017
Modificationdate: 06 December 2017

There are a number of promising biobased alternatives to controversial polar aprotic solvents, as revealed in a report from Wageningen Food & Biobased Research commissioned by RIVM . A safe alternative may arise for DMAc , one of these solvents. DMAc received negative news coverage just last year for possible involvement in causing fertility issues among the female employees at the DuPont/Chemours chemical plant.

Biobased alternatives may also be more sustainable, as they are made from carbon-rich biotic waste flows instead of fossil resources. Polar aprotic solvents (PAS) are used in the chemical industry, for example as laboratory chemicals to separate compounds. The solvents, which are being researched to identify alternatives, are included in the Dutch 'Zeer Zorgwekkende Stoffen'  (Substances of Very High Concern) list and are listed as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) under the EU REACH regulation. The Dutch government aims to keep such substances out of the physical environment, in part by promoting innovation and encouraging substitution. 

Safety and feasibility

Only a few of the potential alternatives identified in the WUR report have had commercial applications to date. Industry, knowledge institutes and the government can now explore these alternatives to determine their safety and technical and economic feasibility. RIVM is conducting a desk study to screen which toxicological information is available for these biobased alternatives, if any. 

The wide use of solvents and their dispersive applications increase the complexity of the market and the production chains. Consequently, it is important to join forces to facilitate safe and sustainable substitution. 

 

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