"We wanted to remove CMR substances from the daily operation," says Stephan Piringer, Director and Head of Environment, Safety and Development at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik (KDT) in Gumpoldskirchen. "This is why we looked at the data of all the substances that we use in our company and, wherever possible, replaced harmful substances with safe ones." A large proportion of those substances was either substituted or removed completely without being replaced.
„Our project has three key aspects: 1) replace CMR substances that are in use, 2) ensure that no new CMR substances are introduced into the company, 3) ongoing monitoring of substances that are currently classified as safe, in case they might be reclassified.“
Stephan Piringer, Director and Head of Environment, Safety and Development at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik
Avoiding CMR substances with regular checks
CMR stands for Carcinogenic (cancer-inducing), Mutagenic (changing the genetic material) and Reprotoxic (causing adverse effects on sexual function and fertility), that is, substances proven or suspected to be harmful to human health. Over the years, scientific findings can change this classification, which is why regular checking of the inventory is so important.
Trained in polymer chemistry, Stephan Piringer knows the importance of hazard identification.
Tracing and documenting tiniest amounts of CMR substances
Together, Ingrid Stassner and Stephan Piringer implemented the project. They first updated the safety data sheets for all substances on site, even for the smallest amounts. Stassner was extremely diligent: "We walked from room to room, scrutinizing every nook and cranny. It is astonishing that CMR substances can 'hide' everywhere, throughout the company," she says.
By August 2020, 425 safety data sheets (see fact box) were added to the computer system. Using this database, it was possible to quickly assess the risk. Subsequently, non-hazardous alternatives needed to be found. To achieve this, the management put two people in charge of each department, from product design and production to maintenance and test laboratory. Coordinated by Piringer and Stassner, about twelve people were involved in this next process.
Ingrid Stassner, responsible for environment and safety at KDT, presents the ready-to-hand folder with the safety data sheets.
Looking for non-hazardous alternatives
Several CMR-containing products were removed without being replaced. Producers of CMR-containing products that were purchased (such as corrosive agents and glues) were asked whether they could offer non-hazardous alternatives as part of their range. It transpired that some CMR substances, such as anti-adherents and lubricating sprays containing nickel, foaming agents and chloroform (a chemical used in the laboratory), were completely dispensable with regard to the production process.
In terms of quantity, the largest item for which a CMR-free alternative was found, was an anti-corrosion agent for the steam boiler: about 400 liters were used every year. The adaptation of various processes turned out to be more complex". A change in the composition affects the core process of our production. Proficiency is demanded because alternatives have to be evaluated, prototypes tested and specifications adhered to," says Piringer.
The chemicals used for vulcanization are stored in closed containers. When opened, automatic extraction is activated. CMR substances were substituted.
Protecting KLIGNER's customers
He adds that, before these latest safety checks, the sealing material produced in Gumpoldskirchen was already free of any CMR substances. "And this is a good thing. Gaskets produced elsewhere are subsequently cut from this sealing material and that creates dust. Because they contain no hazardous substances, the companies that carry out further processing do not require any additional measures to protect their employees."
Ongoing monitoring ensures CMR absence on a long-term basis
The project is not completed yet – and it never will be. Scientific progress continues to classify new substances as CMR. To remain up to date, KLINGER commissioned an external company to monitor these new classifications. Because of this, the timely discovery was made that the white pigment, titanium dioxide, was classified in 2019 as a CMR substance, suspected of having a carcinogenic effect when inhaled. Consequently, KDT has steered clear of using titanium dioxide. Additional safety checks are part of the purchasing process and make sure that each product is checked for CMR substances before acquisition, even if it is just a detergent. New CMR substances are therefore impossible to introduce.
In future, the doors of KLINGER Dichtungstechnik are firmly closed to CMR substances.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)
The safety data sheet is statutory by EU law and also used in many other countries. It contains information about substances and chemical mixtures. It states among other things the substances’ physical and chemical properties, how they are to be stored and disposed of and what first-aid measures have to be taken in an emergency (e.g. rinse eyes with water or not?).
These data are important when handling them in a professional setting
What are CMR substances? The abbreviation CMR stands for Carcinogenic (cancer-inducing), Mutagenic (changing the genetic material), Reprotoxic (causing adverse effects on sexual function and fertility).
Where can I get information about CMR classifications? The website of the European Chemicals Agency ECHA contains a "central validated index of substances and their classification" (Piringer). Further information about EU standards can be found under this link: Roadmap on carcinogens
KLINGER Dichtungstechnik developed sealing materials and solutions at their headquarters in Gumpoldskirchen. The product range comprises flat-gasket materials based on Elastomer, PTFE, graphite and mica. The sealing products are cut for the customer directly at KLINGER. Alternatively, the materials can be purchased by the manufacturer. Additionally, KLINGER Dichtungstechnik offers services such as KLINGER Expert, a software that helps in the selection of a suitable gasket, assembly instruction sheets, product accreditations, mobile training and consulting.
Stephan Piringer and Ingrid Stassner on their fact-finding mission at KLINGER Dichtungstechnik
The company is known for its pioneering role when it comes to protection of the environment: