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Greener Paint, Cleaner Air

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When Jim Thompson began making plans for his new body shop, Lynch Collision Center in Mount Vernon, Iowa, he chose waterborne paint in part because it put him way ahead of compliance requirements for current local and possible future air quality regulations.

There’s been a lot of talk in the industry about when waterborne paint might be mandated nationally the way it is in California. But Christine Paulson explains that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) probably won’t take that step anytime soon. I don’t see EPA requiring waterborne paints in the near future, nor would [the state of] Iowa, says the senior environmental specialist at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Air Quality Bureau. ìThere would probably be a huge outcry from industry, particularly auto body or other specialty surface coating operations that need to use certain formulations that contain heavy metal hazardous air pollutants (HAP) or volatile organic compounds (VOC).

Because the use of proper paint booths and ideal spray gun configurations—both present in Thompson’s new shop—can reduce HAP emissions appreciably, Paulson explains, there isn’t really a need to mandate waterborne paint.

What shops really need to worry about is the local, state and federal regulations that affect body shops’ emissions. For example, in Lynch’s Linn County, local ordinances govern how much air pollution businesses can emit. A business can’t emit more than 0.01 grains of particulate material per standard cubic foot of exhaust gas, and the density of its smoke or visible emissions can’t exceed 20 percent.

The county has adopted a local ordinance that mirrors the requirements of the EPA’s so-called 6H Rule (see The EPA is Coming to Town in our April 2010 issue), which establishes requirements for hazardous air pollutants in surface coatings. The regulation covers any coatings that have lead, manganese, nickel, cadmium or chromium.

Under that regulation, the filters for a business have to be 98 percent efficient, so that only 2 percent of whatever goes through the filter makes it into the atmosphere. Painters have to attend a training to learn how to set up and clean the gun properly, and how to paint in a way that minimizes overspray. Spray booths have to be set at the right pressure, and paint guns have to be high volume, low pressure (HVLP), airless or air-assisted airless.

New shops have to be set up this way, and existing ones have to upgrade their equipment by January 10, 2011. And that’s part of the reason Thompson decided on waterborne at Lynch; it makes those regulations easy to comply with. In fact, Lynch is voluntarily reducing emissions below even what Linn County would require, says Tony Daugherty, senior air quality scientist with Linn County’s Air Quality Division.
 

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