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Guides to Pollution Prevention - The Fiberglass-Re...
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Fiberglass Fabrication: Reasons for Change

Why should fiberglassers implement pollution prevention (P2)?

To reduce toxic and hazardous emissions and employee exposure, to reduce compliance efforts, and to save money.

  • It costs an average of $1,500 for each employee that has to seek medical attention from hazardous chemical exposure.

  • As a rule of thumb, consuming more than one 55-gallon drum per day of conventional, styrene-based resin in open molding operations, likely means a facility is exceeding federal air emission permitting thresholds, due to the styrene and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) contents.

  • Fiberglassers regularly use products that are hazardous or dangerous to workers and the environment, e.g.,
    • Many materials and cleaning solvents are flammable
    • Styrene in resins and gel coats
    • Toluene in some mold release agents
    • Dimethyl phthalate in some catalysts
    • Isocyanate in some foaming agents
    • Other volatiles and hazardous air pollutants in solvents, adhesives, resins, gel coats, catalysts, paints and coatings, thinners, foams, and other raw material inputs

    Environmental Regulations

    Complying with regulations, protecting worker health and safety, and facility management need to be considered when making a decision to use a traditionally toxic material or finding a less toxic, less regulated process material.

    Listed below are some general regulations that may apply to the raw materials and processes used at a typical fiberglass facility:

    Worker Health and Safety
    OSHA and other state level worker protection authorities set permissible exposure levels (PELs) for certain chemicals and hazardous exposures.

    The offenders - styrene, acetone, volatile organic compounds (VOC) in resin, gel coat and aesthetic finishing materials, tool and equipment cleaning solvents, toluene in some mold release agents, dimethyl phthalate in some catalysts.

    Facilities Management
    Local fire codes regulate flammable products, like acetone. These codes define how much raw material can be stored on site. They also define how products should be stored and/or "processed" in your shop. For example, peroxide catalysts must be stored in an explosion-proof cabinet.

    The offenders - acetone, other equipment and mold cleaning solvents, catalysts

    Air Quality
    Federal, state and local air authorities are all concerned about the impact of this industry on the quality of air. Styrene is a listed Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP), and a suspected carcinogen, an experimental poison by ingestion and inhalation, and an eye and skin irritant.

    The "Boat rule" under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) is applicable to fiberglass resin and gel coat operations, carpet and fabric adhesive operations. This MACT rule requires all major sources to meet HAP emission standards reflecting the application of the maximum achievable control technology (MACT).

    The offenders - styrene, acetone, VOCs in resin and gel coats, toluene in some mold release agents, dimethyl phthalate in some catalysts, aesthetic finishing materials, equipment cleaning solvents

    Water Quality
    Spent solvents or other wastes should never drain onto the ground or into a septic system, storm drain, surface water or any other drain not connected to a sanitary sewer. Improper disposal or releases can have an adverse affect on groundwater, surface water and sediments.

    Hazardous Waste
    Hazardous wastes are determined by characteristics (flammable, reactive, corrosive or toxic) or by laboratory test of the particular waste.

    The offenders - resins, initiators, catalysts, cleaning solvents, paints, stains, thinners, spent filters

    Solid Waste
    Overspray solids, unused products, solidified resins, trim-ends and cutouts typically are not regulated. However, some landfills do impose restrictions on pick-up and disposal. Contact your local landfill to determine if restrictions apply.

    Community Right-to-Know
    The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) promulgated the "Community Right-to-Know" law, requiring businesses to report use and releases of hazardous chemicals. This federal law affects facilities that use over 10,000 lbs of any solvent and/or over 50,000 lbs of resin per year. Acetone was recently removed from SARA's regulated list, but other solvents like toluene and xylene remain listed and are regulated.

    Cost Savings and Avoidance

    Many businesses only account for waste disposal costs rather than considering all of the associated costs with using toxic raw materials and polluting, energy or water-consuming processes, and inefficient technologies. Total cost accounting ensures that certain management, engineering, and overhead costs are tagged to cost considerations for environmental operations.

    Examples of potential cost and savings opportunities associated with improving environmental performance can include:

    Raw Materials Reduction in Quantity or Toxicity
    Storage and inventory
    Spill prevention
    Secondary containment
    Container labels

    Water Use Reduction
    Water use
    Sewer and discharge fees
    Wastewater treatment
    Sludge handling and disposal

    Solid and Hazardous Waste Reduction
    Waste collection and containers
    Labels and labeling
    Onsite management
    Recycling and reuse opportunities (and avoided purchase of new or virgin materials)

    Air Pollution Reduction
    Inspection and monitoring
    Ventilation and filtration
    Pollution control equipment
    Sampling, monitoring, and testing
    Discharge fees

    Management and Overhead Costs to Consider
    Permit preparation and maintenance
    Regulatory impact analysis
    Hazard analysis and communication
    Product/vendor research
    Emergency planning
    Spill response procedures and equipment
    Right-to-know, emergency, and other safety and health training for staff
    Sampling and testing
    Inspections and audits
    Information and tracking systems
    Regulatory reporting
    Insurance and legal fees
    Penalties and fines for non-compliance
    Future liability

  • Topic Hub™ Last Updated: 12/20/2006
    This Topic Hub is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2RX)™
    The Fiberglass Fabrication Topic Hub was developed by:
    Contact email:office@pprc.org
    Peaks to Prairies is a member of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange™, a national network of regional information centers: NEWMOA (Northeast), WRRC (Southeast), GLRPPR (Great Lakes), ZeroWasteNet (Southwest), P2RIC (Plains), Peaks to Prairies (Mountain), WRPPN (Pacific Southwest), PPRC (Northwest).