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May/June 2008
SpotLight

Change with the Changing Times

ASTM Committee D26 Celebrates 50th Anniversary

by Richard Wilhelm

D26 Award of Merit winners

A 1993 reunion meeting brought together many original and longtime members of Committee D26. Five D26 Award of Merit winners posed for this photo. From left to right: Charles Beck, Kenneth Suprenant, Gil Gavlin, Roger Etherington and Clete Smith.

By their very nature, ASTM committees are bound to change as circumstances in business and industry dictate, with some committees changing more than others over the course of their existence. One committee that illustrates this well is D26 on Halogenated Organic Solvents and Fire Extinguishing Agents, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Discovered in the 19th century, halogenated organic solvents such as carbon tetrachloride, chloroform and trichloroethylene played an important role in metal cleaning, dry cleaning and vapor degreasing, among other uses. Despite the growing importance of these products, by the mid-1950s, there were no standards available for them.

The initial push for standards came with the publication of “Solvent Degreasing — What Every User Should Know” by Charles E. Kircher in the January 1957 ASTM Bulletin (a precursor of SN). This article led to the establishment of Committee D26 on Halogenated Organic Solvents (the “and Fire Extinguishing Agents” would come later) in June 1958.

The committee developed standards for a variety of solvents over the next decade, but environmental concerns and technological innovation began to impact the use of these materials. Beginning in the mid-1970s, D26 worked with industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop standards for the control of emissions from solvent metal-cleaning operations. This work led to both the creation of Subcommittee D26.08 on Government Affairs (now disbanded) and new standards such as D3640, Guidelines for Emission Control in Solvent Metal Cleaning Systems.

The Montreal Protocol of 1987 and the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act brought further changes for D26, since both called for the phasing-out of several halons, which are halogenated organic compounds used as fire-extinguishing media. Subcommittee D26.09 on Fire Extinguishing Agents was formed in 1993 to develop an emergency standard for recycled Halon 1301, manufacture of which had been phased out. Since that time, D26.09 has become the primary generator of new work within D26.

Activity on Committee D26 has slowed down in recent years but according to current D26 chair Douglas Terry and past chair Roger Etherington, the committee is now working to shift its focus again. With the market moving away from use as solvents and toward chemical intermediates for fluorocarbons, new Subcommittee D26.08 on Halogenated Organics Used as Feed Stocks is working on a proposed new standard that will point the committee in a new direction, WK15266, Specification for Fluorocarbon Feedstock Grade Chloroform.

Terry and Etherington say that one constant during the many changes D26 has gone through has been the enjoyment members received from working together and the friendships that resulted. A 1993 “reunion” meeting brought many of the original members together again.

“It was a wonderful meeting,” says Etherington. “I remember that meeting with great fondness because it was a celebration of the camaraderie that the committee had. Being with those guys was always a treat.”

Terry concurs, “There were some interesting characters and I looked forward to going to the meetings. We were good friends.”