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Ban Approved on Calif. Paint Toxins

May 14, 1999

DIAMOND BAR, Calif. (AP) _ Regulators in Southern California approved new rules today that will force manufacturers to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop new paint formulas to eliminate tons of polluting fumes.

South Coast Air Quality Management District board members adopted the regulations over vociferous opposition from manufacturers, who said the requirements are too strict and could force smaller manufacturers out of business. The new rules cover several counties in Southern California.

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

``This is truly a historic moment in the longterm battle for clean air,″ said Barry Wallerstein, the district’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 new 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, a specialty paintmaker based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

After Friday’s vote, representatives of El Rap, a paint industry association formed to fight the new rules, said they would consider legal action and other options to prevent the law from taking effect.

``The happiest people are regulators who still have not proven anything″ about the harm caused by paint vapors, said Ken Khachigian, an attorney representing 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 management district figures. The new law would remove 22 tons of paint pollutants from the air.

The management district has estimated it will cost the paint industry about $800 million to meet the new standards. Industry officials figure it will cost them much more. To be fully compliant, they said, manufacturers would have to replace 7,000 separate formulas, each at a cost of about $250,000, said Ray Robinson, a member of El Rap.

The rules would begin to take effect in 2002. The phase-in would be complete by 2006. But the regulations call for continuing assessment of technology that, by the air quality district’s admission, is not fully developed.

That concerned Madelyn K. Harding, product compliance administrator for Sherwin Williams, the big paint manufacturer based in Cleveland, Ohio.

``We consider these regulations to require numerous technological breakthroughs that are not predictable,″ she told the board before it voted.

Some manufacturers supported the law. A representative of Dunn-Edwards Paint Corp., a Los Angeles-based manufacturer that sells in Southwestern states, said manufacturers must accept responsibility for developing cleaner paints.

``The rule is costly to the paint industry in the short term, but we’ll be able to meet the requirements and provide quality coatings to our customers,″ said Edward Edwards, part-owner of the company.

Smaller manufacturers also complained about an aspect of the rules that allows averaging _ giving a business an overall pollution quota. Big producers, such as Dunn-Edwards, could avoid reformulating high-polluting paints because it’s pollutant average would be offset by big-volume sales of low-polluting water-based paints.

Smaller shops that specialize in making oil-based paints for industrial use will be at a competitive disadvantage, said Cal Western’s Mulnix.

``It could be the deadliest proposal here today for small manufacturers,″ he said.

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