The vast majority of air emissions in the wood finishing industry are generated from the coatings used in the finishing process. The adhesives used in the manufacture of partitions and fixtures (and other types of wood furniture products that involve covering a composite material core with a wood vendor or plastic laminate) can generate significant air emissions.
In the Northeast, solvents emitted in the greatest quantities from furniture finishing are toluene, xylenes, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK), and methanol. All of these compounds are flammable liquids that quickly evaporate. In addition, the US EPA considers them hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) that can cause adverse health effects and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can contribute to ambient air quality problems.
Many wood furniture manufacturing facilities exhaust their emissions directly to the outside of the facility without any treatment. Therefore, in addition to possible occupational exposure to HAPs, persons living in close proximity to the plant might also be exposed to air toxic emissions from the facility. Chemicals enter the body via three primary routes: inhalation, ingestion, or direct contact with the skin. In the work environment of a wood finishing line, the primary exposure route to HAPs is inhalation. Accidental direct contact or ingestion is possible, particularly if employees are not adequately trained and/or appropriate housekeeping practices are not implemented.
Using pollution prevention techniques can help furniture finishers to reduce emissions and waste, and save raw materials and money.
A Few P2 Tips for Reducing Hazardous Waste
- Minimize and standardize your coatings. Using fewer coatings for different jobs means less spray gun cleaning and wasted product.
- Recycle lacquer dust. The savings from reduced hazardous waste disposal combined with reduced virgin material requirements can make lacquer dust recycling economical.
- Reuse filters. The elimination of both new disposable filter purchase costs and hazardous waste storage and disposal costs typically makes the switch to reusable filters economical.
- Utilize a commercial laundry service. If rags are sent to a commercial laundry for cleaning and reuse they are exempt from regulation as a hazardous waste.
A Few P2 Tips for Reducing Air Emissions:
- Improve operator technique. Spray gun operators control many of the factors that affect transfer efficiency (TE). By improving TE you’ll generate less overspray, spray booth filters will last longer, there will be less lacquer dust to clean up and dispose of, and spray booths will require less frequent cleaning.
- Use alternative coatings such as water-based coatings.
- Use high solids coatings. Traditional sealers and topcoats are 20% solids or less, meaning that 80% or more of the coating you purchase evaporates and is wasted even if your TE is 100%.
- Use more efficient spray guns. High volume low pressure (HVLP) spray guns have a TE of 40 to 60%.