The paint and coatings industry has sharply reduced its emissions of air and water pollutants and slashed its overall Toxicity Score in a new report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA’s 2008 Sector Performance Report on Paint & Coatings notes that industry air emissions reported to the agency’s Toxics Release Inventory plummeted by 57 percent between 1996 and 2005.
The industry’s Toxicity Score—a measure EPA develops by assigning weights to various chemicals—plunged by more than 80 percent during the same period.
Xylene and toluene, organic solvents used as carriers in paints, were the chemicals most frequently reported to the Toxic Release Inventory and the highest-ranking chemicals in pounds emitted into the air.
Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions remain a significant concern, particularly emissions generated at the point of use. These emissions result primarily from the use of organic solvents in formulating paint and coatings.
In 2002, for example, paint and coatings manufacturers emitted 6,000 tons of VOCs, while VOC emissions resulting from the use of those products exceeded 2 million tons, the EPA reported.
The industry improved its environmental performance in other areas as well. For example, 39 facilities in the industry reported discharging 9,900 pounds of TRI chemicals in water in 2005—about half the quantity reported in 1996. The sector’s wastewater is usually discharged to publicly owned treatment works but may also be discharged directly to waterways.
Total waste managed declined by 28 percent over the period. In 2005, 4 percent of the absolute pounds of TRI-reported waste was released into the air or water or disposed of; 8 percent was treated; 28 percent was recovered for energy use, and 60 percent was recycled.
The EPA noted two recent environmental initiatives by the industry: the Paint Product Stewardship Initiative, a multi-stakeholder effort to promote environmentally responsible leftover paint management; and Coatings Care, a program for manufacturers developed by the National Paint & Coatings Association.
The entire report is available at http://www.epa.gov/ispd/pdf/performace-rpt-2008.pdf.