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It’s Getting Easier Being Green

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What’s the future hold for VOC compliance? With all the new regulations and the trouble it took to become compliant and to learn new techniques for materials, will it all have to be done again in the next two to five years? What’s next?
– Sterling Wayne Stirewalt, shop manager, Mr. Dent, West Plains, Mo.


Fortunately, for shops, in terms of VOC compliance, the industry is currently in a bit of an “on hold” situation. But go back a few years, and it was definitely a very different story – as both paint manufacturers and collision repair facilities worked diligently to produce and maintain compliant products and operations. Today, paint manufacturers create only National Rule-compliant products. Non-compliant products have been virtually eliminated from the industry, making it easier for collision repair facilities to remain compliant.

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In the next two to five years, we don’t see anything on the horizon that will dramatically affect general compliance rules across the United States. One region in the nation, however, may see changes in the near future due to the formation of the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC).

Dealing With Your Dirt
Comprised of representatives from 12 states on the East Coast, the OTC is considering enacting its own set of rules to regulate emissions from automobile and mobile equipment refinishing. Why? Weather patterns tend to move eastward – meaning air pollution also moves eastward. The goal of these proposed rules is to assist the 12 states in achieving better air quality.

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To date, the OTC has only developed a rule strategy. The document features sections on application techniques that require using high-volume low-pressure (HVLP) spray guns; solvent cleaning that requires enclosed gun cleaners; storage and disposal; training requirements; and VOC limits equal to the National Rule. The OTC will decide in 2001 whether or not to proceed with a refinishing initiative. For more information on OTC, see, “Dirt Blows East.”

California: The “Erin Brockovich” of Collision Repair
Another regional initiative regarding compliancy may take place in the notably stringent state of California. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is looking at possibly adopting a rule that prohibits the use of Hexavalent Chrome in refinishing products.

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Anyone who’s seen the movie “Erin Brockovich” is familiar with this potent chemical from the PG&E scandal, upon which the movie is based. In the collision repair industry, we find small doses of Hexavalent Chrome in paint products; it’s the lead used primarily in yellow, orange and red paint. Why is Hexavalent Chrome so dangerous? It’s a carcinogen and can cause cancer – specifically lung cancer – and can also affect the liver and kidneys.

At this stage, CARB has asked paint manufacturers how the elimination of Hexavalent Chrome would affect the quality and price of coatings now sold in California. Currently, the chemical is banned solely in the southern coastal area of California – but expect it to be prohibited across the entire state in the next two years.

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What’s Next?
Looking ahead 10 years, we can first expect the rest of the nation to follow California’s lead in creating more stringent VOC regulations. Larger cities with existing air attainment problems, such as Houston, Chicago, Miami and New York City, will be among the first to follow California’s regulations. California itself will also become more stringent, primarily because of necessity, since numerous air pollution problems continue to exist in the state.

Regarding the products themselves, we believe there will be an overall push toward high-solids, low-VOC content paint lines. Why? What’s the result? Because it results in a thicker, denser paint that leads to reduced amounts of air emissions and will create fewer air pollutants. We’ll also continue to see a heavy European influence in the American paint manufacturers’ product offerings.

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To make sure you’re fully aware of the environmental health and safety aspects of the vehicle refinishing industry, the Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair (CCAR) has an excellent Web site located at www.ccar-greenlink.org. The site provides detailed information on state laws, pollution prevention and spill procedures. The site also includes a “virtual body shop,” which illustrates environmental hazards and how they can be alleviated.


Writer Chris Blumfeldt is marketing manager, market research for Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes Corp.

Dirt Blows East
Watch any weather report, and when they show the map of the United States, you may notice the weather patterns tend to move eastward. Pollution in the air travels right along with these weather patterns. Winds from the West tend to “push” pollution. It’s like when you throw a light object in the air on a windy day. It doesn’t fall back at your feet. Chances are it falls somewhere in the distance.

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This is why the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) was created. A lot of the air pollution created in the Midwest ends up on the East Coast, and it’s the OTC’s job to clean this up. Members of each state on the OTC are appointed by their respective state government and their local EPA chapter. But while this is a group project, funding is provided by individual states.

The 12 states in the OTC are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia, along with Washington D.C.

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