WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency hopes to develop new standards for estimating styrene emissions in composites open molding by September. The move should boost the amount of emissions that firms report, an agency official said.
Styrene emissions have increased 25 percent since 1998 and industry officials say they could face more regulation unless the output is brought under control, particularly from the composites industry. Composites account for about 70 percent of styrene emissions.
Styrene moved up one spot to 16th in the EPA's most recent listing of toxic chemical emissions, although overall emissions held steady at just under 46 million pounds in 1996. EPA figures showed styrene was the only chemical in the top 20 that increased emissions every year between 1988 and 1995. The 1996 figures, released in June, are the most recent available.
The agency's old standards, called emissions factors, significantly underestimated the amount of styrene released in open molding, said Ron Ryan, an EPA environmental engineer. Ryan said the old tests used limited data, and were removed in March after new studies raised questions.
The composites industry is taking a detailed look its emissions, including pollution-control methods such as controlled spraying, which can reduce emissions 20 percent, said John Schweitzer, senior director of government affairs for the Arlington, Va.-based Composites Fabricators Association.
``What we're doing is trying to understand our actual emissions,'' he said. ``We're going to be very open about these things—whether it's good, bad or otherwise.''
He agreed with EPA that the old standards underreported emissions, but said they also did not give credit for pollution-control devices. The industry and EPA are working together on developing a new standard. EPA has temporarily adopted industry guidelines, Schweitzer said.
John DiFazio, chairman of the Washington-based Styrene Information and Research Center, said industry is taking steps to reduce emissions, as measured by releases per pound of styrene used.
For example, emissions per thousand pounds of styrene used fell from 4.93 pounds in 1995 to 4.68 pounds in 1996 because of better operating practices, he said.
Emissions held steady in 1996, but recalculations and general increases in styrene use could push reported emissions up, DiFazio said. That could affect whether styrene is put on an EPA list of chemicals to target for more controls in urban areas, he said.
Public attention to emissions also could increase because the Environmental Defense Fund has launched a Web site (www.score card.org) that lets the public see emissions data from facilities near their homes, DiFazio said.