The use of trichloroethylene (TCE) in the metalworking industry in Europe is regulated due to environmental, health and safety considerations and various countries apply different instruments to reduce TCE use. This paper examines two different regulatory approaches: risk management based on strict technical standards in Germany and a general ban in Sweden, which later evolved into an exemption and permit system.
Both approaches induced significant reduction of the total TCE emissions from the metalworking industry. However, in terms of emissions per value-added the rate of improvement was ten times higher in Germany, where by 2003 the emissions per value-added were 140 times lower than in Sweden. The German approach stimulated technology innovation and more sustainable businesses as well as better health and safety conditions for workers. In Sweden many larger firms totally shifted away from the use of TCE. However, some (mainly SMEs) could not find substitute to TCE and had to rely on an exemption and permit system, which allowed continuous use of decades-old equipment with relatively high emission factors. While workers’ exposure in these installations in Sweden is limited by health and safety regulations, there are few limitations for the total emissions into atmosphere.
The case illustrates that environmental risk management through strict regulations could be more effective than bans in the short run and in promoting technological innovation and higher environmental and heath and safety standards. On the other hand, the long term goals of eliminating the use of trichloroethylene is better addressed by the ban.European Energy and Environmental Law Review