California Leads the Way in Paint Regulatory ChangesPosted 3/1/2007
By Rachael J. Mercer
Although the information in this article is most pertinent to Californians in the automotive refinishing industry, body shop owners in California are not the only people who should be concerned about the changes in regulations surrounding volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In the United States, two air districts in California are leading the way in changing VOC emissions and output in their areas. In addition, their changes are leading the way in encouraging paint manufacturers to develop paints (basecoats, clearcoats and color coats) that meet the suggested control measures established in California.
The Clean Air Act of 1990 began the process of change that is under way today in California. After developing air districts in California and several other states, government bodies began working to become compliant with the Clean Air Act. In California, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) set forth a suggestion about how many VOCs would be acceptable in each stage of the automotive refinishing process. These suggestions, sometimes called the "suggested control measure" or the "model rule," were then passed along to each air district in California.
According to Jay Kaiser, representative for DuPont, "California and Canada are the two active places for VOC regulation right now. Other areas of the country might be discussing change, but the places with real activity are California and Canada."
Darlene Eilenberger, BASF marketing director, said, "The new VOC recommendations will take effect in some California districts in July 2008. The suggested control measure has been adopted or is pending adoption by the different air quality management districts across the state.
"There are several states that are currently considering the same or similar VOC regulations in the United States. Also, Canada has proposed similar regulations that are projected for 2009-2010."
"Some air districts are considering adopting stringent VOC compliance levels in 2010, and some will follow after that," said Kaiser. "Also, some of the requirements for compliance for different paints - such as specialty coats, clearcoats, etc. - take effect at different times."
Changing Paint Technology
California has quickly become the focus of new product promotion, as most paint companies are on board in an effort to control the level of VOCs emitted during the refinishing process. Waterborne paint is the most available new product designed to reduce VOC emissions during the automotive painting process. Many paint companies are working to make this transition smooth and less costly for body shop owners.
Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes recently introduced AWX, a waterborne basecoat/clearcoat system.
"Utilizing a proprietary resin system that behaves like the solvent-borne system of today, AWX is designed to meet the strict VOC-emissions limits recently adopted in California," said Nick Bartoszek, Sherwin-Williams product manager. "[This product] adheres to the environmentally friendly guidelines soon to be implemented in Canada and throughout the Midwest and Northeastern United States."
BASF's waterborne system is another well-known paint option for auto body shops seeking to become VOC-compliant. BASF brought waterborne products to the market 14 years ago. "BASF anticipated the future a decade before the recent regulatory changes in California with the launch of the Glasurit 90-Line," said Eilenberger.
Although the European Union has implemented VOC regulations through many European countries, the products that paint companies developed to remain in compliance in Europe are making their way to the United States. For example, PPG's Aquabase Plus waterborne basecoat system was launched in California in the fall of 2006. According to PPG, Aquabase Plus was Europe's No. 1-selling waterborne basecoat system.
"Fully compliant with all current and impending VOC legislation, Aquabase Plus gives body shops an easy route to conversion," said Doug Beuke, PPG compliant segment manager for North America. "Aquabase Plus ... is fully supported by a comprehensive range of cross-referenced color tools and state-of-the-art training."
Shops in Transition
With the changing regulations surrounding VOC emissions, many shops throughout the country are left to wonder: "When will these changes affect me?" Paint company representatives are quick to point out that the transition can be made less tricky by beginning to use compliant products today, even if the regulations concerning VOCs are not strict in your area.
"By comparison to some past changes shops in California have made, [complete compliance in 2008] will be a much easier transition. For shops already using BASF's Glasurit products the changes are minimal," said Eilenberger. "They are already using compliant cleaners, primers, and clearcoats. The only change will be the basecoat. BASF considers our Glasurit 90-Line an extension of our existing mixing system."
Nick Bartoszek points out the qualities of the new AWX line with which technicians and owners are already familiar, stressing the similarities between AWX's water-borne properties and the formerly used solvent-borne products.
"[Sherwin-Williams'] goal in launching AWX was to ease the fears and concerns body shop owners have in changing from a solvent to a waterborne system," said Bartoszek. "Because AWX has solvent-borne-like application properties, it ensures a seamless transition and conversion. Technicians will be familiar and comfortable with the process already, requiring minimal training and start-up costs."
Kaiser said, "All of the DuPont product offerings currently meet all of the basecoat requirements in California - that includes our Standox and Spies Hecker products." DuPont's Web site also contains information that aids shop owners in determining what VOC regulations apply to them. For California, the regulations are broken down by air district and also indicate what DuPont automotive finishes are in compliance in that area.
Beuke recommends PPG's product for ease of use and relative simplicity, alleviating the fears of technicians and body shop owners responsible for implementing new products. "Aquabase Plus is as easy to use as solvent-borne systems, requires no special additives, features a complete range of non-stir toners and is very simple to blend," said Beuke.
Body shop owners, particularly in California, should continue to stay up-to-date about new regulations and new proposals that might affect them. BASF will host an invitation-only event that focuses on educating collision shops about new regulations and informing them about the issues surrounding waterborne and low-VOC products. Paint company representatives are a great source of information. In addition, paint company Web sites offer a vast wealth of information concerning VOC compliance levels, dates for compliance and product information for items that meet these compliance requirements (see sidebar on page 22 for a list of Web sites).
For body shop owners in California, the implications of these regulations are obvious - compliance is required by law. Failure to comply with these regulations set forth by the air districts can result in hefty fines. But, for body shop owners outside California, what are the appropriate steps to take in lowering the VOC emissions produced by their businesses?
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues to draft new rules for automotive refinishing products lowering VOCs, it seems as if it is only a matter of time before more stringent VOC-compliance legislation and regulations will take effect throughout the country. Body shop owners can begin to make this shift voluntarily. Doing so now, before being given a timeline for compliance, may ease the financial and educational burden that comes when shops are forced into change.
As many paint representatives have commented, the waterborne systems are available to everyone - not just shops in California. So, don't let these regulations slip up on you! Get ahead of the process by making small changes and moving toward understanding the costs and processes of VOC-compliant paints. Not only will making a shift away from solvent-borne paints now ease the transition in the future, it will also go a long way toward protecting the environment - which, after all, is the reason for all these changes in the first place.
Paint Company Web Sites
To learn more about the products, businesses and organizations mentioned in this article, please visit the following Web sites:
Rachael J. Mercer is a freelance writer based in Moultrie, Ga. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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