In its independent letter to Kaiser (the association has also signed on to other interested parties' comment letters), ACA distinguished between the various uses of antimicrobials in the paint and coatings industry. Manufacturers use antimicrobial substances for a variety of reasons, for example, as in-can preservatives, and to protect the dry paint film in particularly humid climates. The antimicrobials used by the paint and coatings industry in these products are fully registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) as in-can preservatives. In fact, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency exempts in-can preservatives and antimicrobial claims made for the paint film from FIFRA under the "treated articles exemption." Each of the preservatives listed in Kaiser's policy have been reviewed and determined as safe under FIFRA.
Recently, some manufactures have developed paints and coatings that claim full biocidal benefits and these products are fully registered as biocidal products under FIFRA. In order to register under FIFRA these products have undergone extensive testing, risk assessment and labeling requirements.
From the bulletin it is unclear if Kaiser is focused solely on "products and finishes" that claim to offer a biocidal benefit or if the use of antimicrobials as in-can or dry film preservatives could also be affected by the ban. However, after speaking with a Kaiser representative, ACA understands that banning the use of in-can preservatives was not the intention of the policy. ACA is requesting that Kaiser update the Bulletin to better define the narrower scope of the policy.
In its letter, ACA addressed concerns with the bulletin, including the statement that "products and finishes that do not contain these additives or treatments are increasingly available." ACA stressed that as manufacturers continue to innovate and produce more low-VOC coatings, the percentage of products using antimicrobial substances increases.
"Emulsion polymer binder systems are responsible for the drastic reduction in the use of organic solvents which are typically the source of VOCs from the paint and coatings industry," ACA explained. "Over the past three decades, industry has switched from traditional polymer systems that used organic solvents to emulsion polymer systems where the primary solvent in the formulation is water. This switch has allowed paint and coatings formulators to lower the concentration of VOCs in the final products, which has drastically decreased the potential impacts of paints and coatings on human health and the environment. Due to the increased concentration of water (which introduces microbial substances into the system), and the decreased concentration of organic solvents (which traditionally inhibited microbial growth) these and other products have become more prone to microbial contamination from bacteria, yeasts, and fungi."