WASHINGTON — Styrene's steady increase in emissions and repeat appearances on Environmental Protection Agency lists of heavy air pollutants is prompting several composites industry trade groups to look at a joint effort to combat the problem and stave off regulation.
The composites industry is targeted because it accounts for 69 percent of styrene emissions, but only 6 percent of the styrene used—and its emissions are growing as a percentage of all styrene releases, said John DiFazio, chairman of the Styrene Information and Research Center, part of the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
DiFazio spoke at SIRC's annual meeting in Washington on Nov. 20.
``It is a very, very thorny issue,'' said Steve McNally, director of government affairs with the Composites Fabricators Association in Arlington, Va. ``It is a public policy nightmare.''
The groups, including CFA, SPI's New York-based Composites Institute and the International Cast Polymer Association in Arlington, are in the early stages of an effort that will look at such issues as changing product formulation or dispensing equipment, adding emissions controls or making wholesale changes in manufacturing, McNally said in an interview at the event.
DiFazio, who also is a Washington-based director of issue management and industry affairs for Dow Chemical Co., said styrene's growing emissions will fuel problems with regulators and environmental groups unless steps are taken soon.
Styrene is the 17th most prevalent chemical on EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, a ranking of chemicals that are released into the air. But it is the only one of the top 20 chemicals that has increased its emissions every year since 1988, DiFazio said.
``What happens with the emissions issue will determine how freely the styrene industry can operate,'' he said. ``The TRI emissions data is the only measurement of our industry that the outside world can track.''
TRI data may overstate emissions growth for styrene because some small fabricators that were not required to report data when the program began in the late 1980s now must provide numbers, McNally said.
``It is not that we are emitting more,'' DiFazio said. ``We are doing a much better job of reporting it.''
The industry also is working to explain that to regulators, he said. And the composites industry is developing rules with EPA that will lower industry emission standards by 40 percent after 2000, according to McNally.
The industry also should benefit from new data if it can show EPA that styrene does not bioaccumulate and that it is not harmful at the levels it is emitted, SIRC officials said.