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Paint, sealants for homes, decks get makeover

| Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Those who manufacture paint have had to change their methods.

Those who plan to varnish a deck may have to change their product of choice.

It's a result of regulations implemented by the Ozone Transport Commission in January, geared toward limiting the emissions of volatile organic compounds in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and parts of northern Virginia.

Commission Executive Director Chris Recchia said the regulations can bring about a reduction of 170 tons of VOCs emitted daily.

"These chemicals react with sunlight and heat to produce ozone," Recchia said. "We wanted to make sure there were well-performing products in all categories that were lower in VOC. We were looking at things relatively easy in people's lifestyles. These products are commercially available and are being used."

The Ozone Transport Commission is a multi-state organization created under the Clean Air Act to help Eastern states develop regulations to reduce ground-level ozone pollution.

Ground-level ozone is described as a highly reactive gas that, according to Environmental Protection Agency studies, "affects the normal functions of the lung in many healthy humans."

"When VOC emissions mix with other elements in the air, it produces ground-level ozone, which has very negative effects on people's health and the environment as well," said Ana Gomez, an information specialist with the state Department of Environmental Protection. "People can have difficulties breathing, scratchy throats or become nauseous. People with asthma, emphysema and bronchitis are very sensitive to ground-level ozone."

Pennsylvania's regulations were adopted by the DEP and the state environmental quality board.

The regulations call for restrictions on the sale of the oil-based paints traditionally used on homes. They also limit the solvents in paint.

Water-soluble latex paint has fewer volatile organic compounds that cause ozone formation.

"We've had to do a lot of reformulation," said Dave Katt, operations and product-line manager for Old Masters. "This is really forcing us to change to more water-borne products."

Old Masters, based in Orange City, Iowa, specializes in stains and wood finishes. Products have been reduced in some cases from as much as 550 VOC to 250. The result, Katt said, is a thicker product that's a little more difficult to apply and more costly to produce and purchase.

"Some of it comes down to the fact those older products were a little more user-friendly," Katt said. "(People) will have to go with higher solids."

PPG Industries already had products in the works to comply with the regulations.

"We've long been committed to technology and have spent a fair amount of time trying to meet our customers' needs and environmental requirements as well," said Paul Wilson, director of technology for architectural finishes for PPG. "We had a number of products in which we had to lower the VOC level."

Wilson said the regulations have not had much effect on PPG.

"I don't believe we've seen any impact. There's been no negative feedback," he said. "We were able to go to a lower solvent without much of an impact in the product any consumer would use."

Similar regulations have been in effect in California for some time. Manufacturers started to reformulate products to comply with those standards.

"It's on the burden of the manufacturer to meet all the codes," said Pete Ciccaglione, president of Westmoreland Supply. "That technology that has come along has been ahead of that curve. Everybody's known that was coming."

Some older paint products still are available. Those manufactured before Jan. 1 that complied with regulations at the time may still be sold.

Ciccaglione said he hasn't witnessed much stocking up of those products.

"You'll find a few customers," he said. "We have one who does axles on his trailer-truck. He feels very comfortable with the product he's been using. He bought 20 gallons instead of the four he usually buys every few months. He should be good for a couple years."

Terry Naponic, owner of M&N Painting in Jeannette, said some people just don't like to change from a familiar product.

"Some of the older people think oil is better. They're used to that and it's hard to change," Naponic said. "They keep taking everything out of paint. There's nothing to it."

The penalties for non-compliance are set forth in the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act. The act calls for fines or even jail time if criminal activity is determined.

"These products are better than the old products. They're just going to take some getting used to," Recchia said.

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