The product saves lives; making it could shorten them

Jun 01, 2008 | 12:17 PM |

Making tiny specialty steel tubes for use in products like heart stents takes a lot of precision, but the manufacturing process generates a lot of friction.

For years, two narrow tube manufacturers in Pennsylvania have used trichloroethylene (TCE) in their manufacturing process as a solvent during the degreasing phase after the lubricated tubes are drawn down to smaller and smaller sizes, often with a wall thickness of just a few thousandths of an inch. The highly toxic solvent was leaking into the air, however, causing health concerns among residents and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Superior Tube Co. Inc. and Accellent Inc., both in Collegeville, near Philadelphia, have invested considerable time and money in research and development to rectify the situation. No fines or penalties have been imposed on either company, the DEP said.

Superior Tube completed reformulation and degreaser removal projects that are expected to reduce TCE emissions by more than 50 percent this year. The company also plans to eliminate TCE from its manufacturing process and replace it with n-propyl bromide (nPB), an alternative approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Unlike TCE, nPB is not considered an air toxic.....

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