Although big box home improvement store giant Lowe’s does not admit any wrongdoing, it nevertheless agrees to pay out a $2.75 million settlement over paints and coatings that contain smog-forming ingredients. Is some of it in your house?
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) regulates air pollution in Orange County but also parts of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside. As such, the agency oversees the oil refineries, dry cleaning operations and other stationary locales. SCAQMD identifies paints and coatings as the major source of pollutants in the area.
As outlined by the agency, these pollutants generate “23 tons per day of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions”. As a result, retailers of paints and coatings must meet the strict standards of Rule 1113, which govern the sale of these products and seek to curtail the resale of items containing smog-forming ingredients.
The Lowe’s settlement apportions $2.45 million to civil penalties while $300,000 pay for the SCAQMD costs incurred during the investigation. Prior to this Lowe’s settlement, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $2 million for a similar violation.
How Rule 1113 Affects the South Coast DIY Weekend Warrior
As outlined by the SCAQMD, the permissible number of grams of volatile organic compounds (VOC) per liter of paints or coatings varies by function. For example, for varnishes the limit (as of July, 2006) is 275, while with mastic coatings it sits at 300. Unfortunately, the California DIY aficionado frequently has to take the store’s word for its adherence to VOC regulations with respect to smog-forming ingredients.
Notable exceptions are Lowe’s specific low-VOC products. Even so, the product specs are not readily available onsite, and there is no way to check if a specific product simply meets or actually exceeds Rule 1113 standards. After all, as outlined by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, all paints and coatings should meet these qualifications in their area of supervision, which in turn would make the purchase of low-VOC products unneeded.
Dollars and Cents vs. Smog-forming Ingredients
The environmentally conscious consumer who seeks to lessen pollution by buying low-VOC products may be in for a bit of a sticker shock. For example, one gallon of Olympic Premium Zero VOC Primer currently sells for almost $15. In contrast, one gallon of KILZ Water-Based Sealer/Primer costs about $10. Depending on the size of the paint job, the $5 difference translates into a significant savings.
It is unclear how the SCAQMD picks and chooses which retailers to go after. In addition, it is uncertain if the settlement infers that Lowe’s will no longer sell non-conforming paints or if it simply purchased a permit to continue doing business with the brands at hand.
South Coast Air Quality Management District: “SCAQMD”
SCAQMD: “AQMD, Lowe’s Reach $2.75 Million Settlement”
AQMD: “Rule 1113”
Lowe’s: “Low VOC Products”
Lowe’s: “Olympic Premium Zero VOC Primer”
Lowe’s: “KILZ Water-Based Sealer/Primer”