This blog post, originally shared in the Pharos Signal, includes information about parts of Pharos that are no longer available. Please use it for historical reference and for the other useful information it contains.
With the release of this week’s final batch of Pharos staff-researched High Performance Coatings (HPCs), a total of sixty-five (65) products made by seventeen (17) companies are ready for viewing.
Here are some preliminary findings from the evaluations, pending further review and data entry by the companies themselves. Content disclosure is poor in this category. These products generally contain many seriously toxic chemicals. The HPC industry has a long way to go to create healthy products.
Manufacturer Disclosure of Product Ingredients
As in other Pharos building material categories — Resilient Flooring, Thermal Insulation and MDF-Particle Board-Wheatboard — users can readily identify HPC products that are transparent by sorting the MfrTox (Manufacturing and Community Toxics) column. We have evaluated any product scoring higher than a “1” in MfrTox as fully disclosed.
Only two companies” public literature provided sufficient material content information to be considered full disclosure: Devoe High Performance Paints (DevFlex 4020-1000 and DevFloor 525) and ITW Resins (AS-150, AS-550, and AS-2500). Due to the overall lack of disclosure by manufacturers in their publically available literature, Pharos was unable to complete MfrTox evaluations for the other 60 products. We recommend that users encourage HPC manufacturers to fully disclose their product ingredients through participation in the Pharos Project.
For each product for which there was inadequate disclosure, we associated generic compositions as material content. We developed the generic compositions from content lists of other similar products and from industry and government literature Specifiers can use these generic ingredient lists to ask suppliers for clarity about chemical content in specific products. When viewed comparatively, the generics reveal some interesting differentiation in hazardous content by type.
In general, epoxies contained the most hazardous ingredients. Two of the most common — and troublesome — ingredients are nonylphenol and Bisphenol A, which the Pharos team profiled in previous Signal articles. Epichlorohydrin, a known carcinogen and suspected endocrine toxicant, is also integral to most epoxies. Another chemical that can be used in epoxies that receives a purple flag in the Pharos Chemical and Material Library (CML) is naphthalene, an EPA-listed priority persistent, bio-accumulative toxicant (PBT).
Polyurethane/acrylic blends and alkyd coating were the next most hazardous types of HPCs. Alkyd coatings frequently contain red-flag hazards such as Stoddard solvent (which the European Commission states should be considered carcinogenic to humans), ethylene glycol (NIOSH’s NTP identifies it as a developmental toxicant), and phthalic anhydride, which is frequently prepared from naphthalene.
The production of polyurethane uses a wide variety of toxicants, which add to the hazards associated with acrylics in HPC copolymers. Other hazardous chemicals associated with acrylic coatings include ethylene glycol and known or likely carcinogens such as quartz (IARC Group 1), cristobalite (IARC Group 1), and styrene (OSHA carcinogen list).
Pharos users can learn more about material content hazards in the Pharos CML. By clicking on an ingredient name, you will find a wealth of data about any risks associated directly with the chemical and with chemicals used in the manufacturing of the ingredient.
Volatile Organic Content
All five Rust-oleum products that we examined list no Volatile Organic Content (VOC). Two of these are Green Seal-certified epoxies (S40 and S42), one is an acrylic (S30), and two are polyurethane/acrylic mixtures (S37 and S38).
Polyurethane/acrylic mixtures, as a group, have the lowest VOC content among the evaluated HPCs. VOC content ranges from zero to 100 grams per liter (g/L). Three Eco-Tuff brand polyurethane/acrylic coatings (Industrial Floor Coating, Rubberized Non Skid Safety Coating, and High Traffic Clear Coat) by Eco Safety Products report the absence of any VOC content, even including VOC compounds that are exempt from smog regulation.
The Rust-oleum S30 product is the only acrylic that listed no VOC content, although Miller Paint’s Acro Pure Semi Gloss comes close, at a reported 1.19 g/L. Twenty of the 34 acrylic HPCs evaluated by Pharos report VOC levels of at least 90 g/L. The worst: Miller Paint’s Acrinamel Gloss-White, with 240.85 g/L VOC.
All three one-part epoxies in the Pharos Project contained high levels of VOCs, between 150 and 310 g/L. Two part epoxies had a wide range: from zero reported in the Rust-oleum products, two ITW American Safety products (AS-2500 and IMPAC 650), and Benjamin Moore’s M40 epoxy, to the product with the highest VOC of all HPCs evaluated, Armorseal 1000 HS (398 g/L).
Pharos Project users can readily identify the lowest VOC coatings from the product library by sorting the UseTox (IAQ and other Toxic User Exposure) column. The precise reported content is found just above the list of ingredients in individual product profiles.
As a group, High Performance Coatings fall far short of green building ideals. This is the current market reality. Within this reality, there are some clear differences in content and VOCs that a specifier can consider — by using the Pharos Project evaluative tools — when she or he must choose HPCs.