In a move that manufacturers fear could result in a ban on aerosol spray paints by 1996, regional air quality officials on Friday ordered an 80% reduction in smog-forming chemicals in the popular products.
While the restrictions do not directly prohibit the pressurized paint cans, officials of the South Coast Air Quality Management District acknowledged it will be difficult for industry to meet the stringent new emission standard.
Industry spokesman Robert Wendoll predicted the AQMD order would "eliminate about 90% of aerosol paints available to the general consumer."
The 10-1 vote by the AQMD board was the second in two months that could lead to the demise of a widely used product.
Last month, the AQMD board called for less-polluting barbecue lighter fluids, a move likely to result in their disappearance in the four-county South Coast Air Basin by 1992. In both instances, the AQMD said less-polluting substitutes are available.
Alternatives to aerosol spray paints include paints applied by brushes and rollers. Paints purchased in cans can also be sprayed with the use of compressors.
The spray paint decision was part of the continuing effort by state and regional air quality officials to meet federal clean air standards by the year 2007. Aerosol spray paints account for 2% of the 578 tons of volatile organic compounds spewed into the atmosphere each day from all non-vehicular sources. The restrictions take effect in two phases.
By Jan. 1, 1992, under the restrictions, an estimated 40% of the aerosol spray products--including those used on metal surfaces, boats, airplanes and autos--could disappear from the market.
By Jan. 1, 1996, when further reductions in smog-forming volatile organic compounds are required, virtually all aerosol spray paints--including widely used flat and non-flat enamels--could disappear from store shelves, according to David W. Lloyd of the National Paint and Coatings Assn.
"It just floors me we're talking about doing away with a total industry without coming up with some other kind of alternative," said Ted R. Lee, president of A. G. Layne Inc., which sells solvents to aerosol paint manufacturers.
Robert Vanderlaan, Anaheim operations manager for Sprayon paints, said his firm would be forced to move its operations and its 70 workers outside the region.
"I'm the person who will have to tell employees that they don't have a job," Vanderlaan told the board. "My question to you is, 'What do I tell them?' "
Although AQMD staff members had recommended that full reductions take place by Nov. 1, 1991, the board balked, saying more time was needed.
After the meeting, AQMD Chairman Norton Younglove explained that in extending the final deadline, paint manufacturers would have "elbow room" to come up with aerosol spray paints that could achieve the required 80% reduction in volatile organic compounds.
Younglove also said it was possible the rule approved Friday could be amended later to allow for some exemptions.
According to the paint industry, about 41,400 cans with a retail value of $120,000 are sold each day in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Aerosol paints, used in consumer, commercial and industrial applications, account for 2.2% of all paint sales nationally.
When the rule goes into full effect, AQMD officials estimated that $52 million spent by taxpayers each year to clean up graffiti in the region could be cut by $15.5 million. One graffiti removal contractor estimated that 30% to 40% of graffiti would be eliminated by the aerosol rule.
The AQMD estimated that the restrictions could mean from 169 to 409 fewer new jobs in the South Coast Air Basin if manufacturers do not redirect efforts and workers to other products. But industry officials said 177 existing jobs would also be threatened.