The environmental distribution and risk ranking of commonly applied solvents were performed to assess their greenness.
A novel procedure for assessing the environmental risk related to solvent emissions has been developed. The assessment of risk was based on detailed hazard and exposure investigations. The potential exposure related to different environmental phases was calculated using a basic multimedia model, which gives the percentage distribution of solvent in environmental compartments as a result. Specific hazards – toxicological, environmental persistence or photochemical ozone creation data have been assigned to each compartment. The environmental distribution of solvents gives the weights applied in the multicriteria decision analysis, which was applied to obtain the full ranking of solvents. The results show that alcohols and esters can be considered as low environmental risk solvents, whereas chlorinated solvents or aromatic hydrocarbons are the most problematic. The assessment procedure holds promise for solvent selection during process design as well as in finding alternatives to hazardous solvents used in existing processes.