Manufacturers must produce more environmentally safe products

Paul Boughton

The European market for rheology modifiers in paints is gaining momentum with the gradual recovery of the European economy that began in late 2003 and continued through 2004, ending three years of economic stagnation that preceded.

Many rheology modifier manufacturers experienced moderate growth in 2004 and expect this encouraging trend to continue for the next few years.

This growth was largely due to the reasonably good performance of certain key paints and coatings segments such as architectural and water-borne industrial coatings, which account for a bulk of the demand for rheology modifiers.

However, the recent European Union directive on volatile organic compounds could become an obstacle for these manufacturers.

The EU introduced this directive (2004/42/CE) with the specific aim of reducing emissions of VOCs resulting from the use of organic solvents in certain paints, varnishes and vehicle refinishing products. Following this legislation, coating companies are more or less compelled to reduce solvent emissions by improving efficiency in using them or by substituting products that contain less or no solvent.

Currently, paint formulations vary across Europe and there are strict regulations regarding the presence of substances that pose potential hazards to the environment.

However, some existing rheology modifiers still contain toxic substances. In such a scenario, the message for rheology modifier manufacturers is clear: produce environmentally compliant products or risk being left out of the race.

Faced with this challenge, these manufacturers are attempting to modify existing products or produce new ones that have less solvent content or are solvent-free; or contain low or zero VOCs and hazardous air pollutants. They are also looking at developing products that are free of APEOs, crystalline silica and heavy metals to suit different paint formulations in various regions.

Adding to this challenge is the increasing pressure to produce innovative products for new coatings formulations.

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