Polar aprotic solvents (PAS) are liquid substances that are used on a wide scale in, for instance, the chemical industry. Some of these PASPolar aprotic solvents, namely NMPN-methylpyrrolidon, DMACDimethylaceetamide DMFDimethylformamide are toxic (for reproduction) but are used on a large scale. Safe alternatives are needed. Previous research by Wageningen University and Research has identified nineteen (emerging) bio-based groups of substances that may be expected to (partly) take over the role of PASPolar aprotic solvents . RIVMRijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu has screened the safety of thirteen of these substances.

For three of the screened substances there are concerns or uncertainties about their safety for humans. There are no indications, at this stage, that they cause an environmental risk. Further research is needed to register these compounds under REACH, the European chemical legislation. The RIVMRijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu study gives a first indication on the possibilities for safe development of these substances and introducing them on the market. 

This research is part of the “Safe Chemicals Innovation Agenda” (SCIA), a Dutch R&DResearch and Development agenda that includes the safe and sustainable substitution of harmful substances. The Netherlands is taking the lead in this subject by the SCIA. 

RIVM is working on other initiatives as well to reduce the use of harmful polar aprotic solvents. The Netherlands has initiated a restriction on NMPN-methylpyrrolidon and is now working on a restriction on DMACdimethylaceetamide under the REACHregistration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals. legislation. Restrictions are normally used to limit or ban the manufacture, placing on the market (including imports) or use of a substance, but can impose any relevant condition, such as requiring technical measures or specific labels. 

More information can be provided by DrDokter. Nicole Jansen (RIVM: Nicole.janssen.02@rivm.nl).