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Paint Toxins Banned in S. Calif

May 15, 1999

DIAMOND BAR, Calif. (AP) _ In a move that could cost paint manufacturers millions of dollars, regulators approved new air quality regulations for Southern California in an attempt to eliminate toxic compounds thought to contribute to smog and ozone.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District adopted the regulations Friday over strong opposition from the industry, which said the requirements could force smaller manufacturers out of business. The rules will be phased in between 2002 and 2006.

Supporters believe the rules for paint, wood stains and other coatings could influence manufacturers across the nation in the same way that California laws forced automakers and gasoline refiners to reduce emissions.

``This is truly a historic moment in the long-term battle for clean air,″ said Barry Wallerstein, the air-quality agency’s executive director. ``As technology advances and good products become available, there isn’t any reason for other areas of the country not to use them.″

Opponents said the rules not only will cost too much but are counterproductive. Home and business owners will have to paint more frequently because new paints won’t have the same durability under the hot California sun.

``We are faced with a rule that would essentially ban all the products we manufacture,″ said Jerry Mulnix, president and general manager of Cal Western Paints in Santa Fe Springs.

El Rap, a paint industry association formed to fight the new rules, said it may take legal action to prevent them from taking effect.

``The happiest people are regulators who still have not proven anything″ about the dangers of paint vapors, said Ken Khachigian, a lawyer for the group.

The regulations are designed to reduce ``volatile organic compounds,″ vapors released from paint as it dries. Such compounds typically are found in highest quantities in glossy, oil-based paints used to cover bridges, storage tanks and other outdoor structures. In homes, such paints are often used to paint exterior doors, bathrooms and kitchens.

Water-based paints used for most home interiors usually are low in volatile compounds.

Air quality officials estimate that paint fumes are responsible for putting 58 tons of pollutants into the air during the spring and summer, when outdoor painting is heaviest. By 2010, the amount is expected to climb to 63 tons.

That’s more than the amount of pollution produced by 1.8 million automobiles or all petroleum refining, storage and transfer activity in the region, according to the air-quality agency. The new rules would remove an estimated 22 tons of paint pollutants from the air.

The agency has estimated it will cost the paint industry $800 million to meet the new standards. Industry officials figure it will cost much more.

To be fully compliant, they said, manufacturers would have to replace 7,000 formulas.

``We consider these regulations to require numerous technological breakthroughs,″ said Madelyn K. Harding, product compliance administrator for Sherwin Williams, the big paint manufacturer based in Cleveland.

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