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Use Nationally and in Massachusetts

Perchloroethylene (PCE) 

Use Nationally and in Massachusetts

Uses of PCE nationally typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • The major use of PCE is as the basic raw material in the manufacture of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC 134a), a popular alternative to chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants. It also is used in the synthesis of several hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC 123 and 124 and HFC 125). In 2004 over 66% of the 355 million pounds of PCE use in the US was for this application.
  • Dry cleaning represents 12% of the total PCE usage nationally (43 million pounds, down from 86 million pounds in 1998). The decrease in usage can be attributed to the improved efficiency of dry cleaning machines in the industry as well as the emergence of alternative cleaning processes and chemicals. PCE currently comprises 70% of all commercial dry cleaning solvents.
  • In 2004, aerosol products (for cleaning tires, brakes, engines, carburetors and wire, and as an anti-seizing agent) made up 12% of the total use of PCE.
  • The use of PCE as an industrial metal cleaning and degreasing agent has declined 16%, from 34.4 million to 28.4 million pounds since 1998. In 2004, 8% of all PCE was used for this purpose.

Table 1 summarizes the historical use of PCE in Massachusetts. The data show the amounts of PCE reported to the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Program for 1990 and 2004. Of the companies that reported their use of PCE in 1990, only one, Shield Packaging, was still using reportable amounts of PCE in 2004. The company is a packager of aerosol products.

Some of the companies who reported using PCE in 1990 found alternative formulations or modified their operations so as to reduce their use of PCE to below the applicable reporting threshold of 10,000 pounds per year.

Overall, Massachusetts has experienced a 73% reduction in the use of PCE since 1990.

Figure 1 illustrates the percent changes in use of PCE in Massachusetts by industry sector. The printing and plastics sectors both completely reduced their usage of PCE below the reporting threshold.

The electronics sector increased its use of PCE by 57%. A portion of this increase was associated with Aerovox which has been increasing production in the Commonwealth since 2000. As of spring 2005, however, this sector will show a 100% decrease in PCE usage as Aerovox, working with the TURI Laboratory and the Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance, was able to eliminate its use of PCE and TCE in its vapor degreasing operations. The company was able to identify viable drop-in alternative vapor degreasers, allowing Aerovox to completely eliminate their use of TCE and PCE.

While the dry cleaning/textiles processing sector shows an overall reduction of 76%, this is due to the difference in operational changes in the two reporting companies. Swan Finishing Company reduced its use of PCE below reporting thresholds within one year of reporting, though it continued to manufacture flame retardant and other finished textiles until 2003. On the other hand, Adams Laundry, an industrial dry cleaning facility, first exceeded the reporting threshold for PCE in 1991, and has maintained steady or increased production since that time.

The metal working sector showed an 86% decrease in PCE usage over the 1990 to 2004 time frame. Of the companies in this sector, Fountain Plating is the only one that was still using reportable amounts of PCE in 2004 for its metal parts masking metal parts process. Springfield Wire continues its operations, but was able to modify its processes to reduce its use of PCE below the 10,000 pound per year threshold by 1994. Presmet continued operations in Massachusetts until recently though it was able to eliminate its use of PCE by 1991.

The chemical packaging sector reduced its use of PCE by 63% from 1990 to 2004. Callahan Company and Astro Chemical repackage PCE for bulk sales. Shield Packaging mixes and packages aerosol formulations containing PCE for other companies. Shield reported a 31 percent increase in use of PCE from 1990 to 2004. However this company relies on the requirements of its customers to dictate the formulations it manufactures and therefore is limited in its ability to reduce PCE use other than through education of its

Working with the TURA program, Aerovox was recently able to eliminate over 20,000 pounds of PCE use in the electronics sector.

Figure 2 illustrates the change from 1990 to 2004 in inputs and outputs of PCE in Massachusetts. Inputs include PCE that is manufactured or processed, as well as PCE that is "otherwise used" - ancillary uses that do not become incorporated into the final product. Outputs include PCE that is generated as byproduct (i.e., all non-product material created by a process line prior to release, on-site treatment, or transfer) and the amount of PCE that is shipped in or as product.

Both inputs and outputs of PCE were significantly reduced overall in the Commonwealth from 1990 to 2004. Specifically, from 1990 to 2004 the total input of PCE, including otherwise used, manufactured or processed PCE, was reduced by 85%, while the total output of PCE, the amount generated as byproduct, shipped in or as product, over the same time period was reduced by 89%. (It is likely that there will be a further decrease in PCE use for 2005 due to Aerovox discontinuing use of PCE for cleaning in 2005.)