Muttenz, Switzerland -- Additives producer Clariant claims its "pioneering step," in 2005 to offer leather-finishing products free of N-methylpyrrolidone-free (NMP-free) has ensured that its customers are well prepared for the December 2010 introduction of binding European Union (EU) legislation on use of the solvent in leather.
Clariant, which says it is a leading supplier of leather-finishing chemicals, was also among the first to begin assessing the challenge to replace NMP. This solvent, previously valued for beneficial effects on levelling and jet blackness, was reclassified by the US State of California in June 2001 following toxicology reports and added to the list of substances known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.
When NMP is used in leather finishing, almost 90 percent remains in the leather after drying and its release over a long period exposes consumers to its potentially harmful effects.
Clariant points out that, in California, minimum amounts of NMP in a product have to be labelled. For example, a vehicle instruction manual must include a warning label if a leather containing NMP has been used on the car seats.
After December 2010, NMP will be reclassified within the EU. Mixtures containing 5percent or more of NMP must be labelled as toxic with all the consequences for the customers in handling and regarding the emission limits by law. Even 0.1 percent of NMP must be listed in the safety data sheet.
This means that leather processing companies are asking and will ask more and more for NMP-free leathers. Said Clariant.
"Clariant realised at an early stage that the use and acceptance of NMP would come to an end and that it would be a major challenge to replace it," comments Dr Ralph-Guenther Blach, Head of Marketing & Application Development of BU Leather Services of Clariant, in a company announcement. "So in 2001 Clariant started a project for the replacement of NMP in all leather finishing products.
Since 2005 "our standard finishing products have been free of NMP and fulfill even the high quality demands and environmental requirements for automotive leather," Blach said.
Clariant's Aqualen topcoat range meets strict customer performance and processing requirements without the use of Phthalates, Alkylphenolethoxylates, and NMP, and with very low VOC (volatile organic compound) levels. These high-performance topcoats, with low impact to the environment, are suitable for all kinds of applications, from glazed kid imitation to high-wear-resistant automotive leather.
The company comments that, as a result of its proactive stance on NMP removal and its on-going commitment to advancing sustainable leather finishing, Clariant has become a recognised specialist in this field. Clariant representatives presented in-depth lectures at congresses at the LGR Gerberschule Reutlingen in Germany (March 2010) and the ALCA (American Leather Chemists Association) in Wisconsin, in the US (June 2010).