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News: Good Hair, Bad Air

Smog plan will regulate consumer products

By Drew Gibson · July 9th, 2007 · News
J.D. Cutter

There is a direct connection between deodorants and hair-care products and smog, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA).

OEPA will hold a public hearing July 23 to outline its plans to bring the Cincinnati area into compliance with the federal Clean Air Act. One of the key aspects of this plan is "different formulations in consumer products that don't contribute to ozone production," says Heidi Griesmer, spokeswoman for OEPA.

The plan involves changing products such as adhesives, both aerosol and non-aerosol anti-perspirants, air fresheners, lighter fluid, furniture cleaners and various hair products to be more environmentally friendly.

"It requires the manufacturers to create the same products but with different formulations," Griesmer says.

The new formulations would have lower levels of volatile organic compounds, which contribute to the accumulation of ozone in the air.

"We have been regulating sources of ozone-causing emissions for decades, and standards get tighter," Griesmer says. "We've already gone to the big manufacturers ... (who) are only responsible for 11 percent of the ozone problem."

Now OEPA is shifting some of its focus to consumers.

"Individually, these products are small, but they are all part of what we call 'area sources,' which cause 30 percent of the ozone problem," Griesmer says.

Mousse inspections
Marti Sinclair, legal chair for the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, is encouraged by these new measures.

"With consumer products, everyone can feel like they are part of the solution, because they are," she says.

OEPA is working on a set of rules for the consumer product program that include fines for both retailers and manufacturers for non-compliance, but Griesmer doesn't have any illusions about the ease of enforcement.

"Realistically, it's going to be a spot check," she says. "We can't be at every convenience store. ... At some point the new formulations are all that will be available."

Plans call for the consumer-product regulations to be implemented beginning in 2009.

The U.S. EPA declared the Cincinnati area -- which includes Hamilton, Butler, Clermont, Warren and Clinton counties -- a "non-attainment area" in 2004, violating standards for ozone emissions. The federal agency gave OEPA three years to form a plan for meeting standards and five years to adequately improve the air quality.

The primary focuses of the plan are controls on nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants, replacing the E-Check with low RVP fuel, more efficient spray guns, different solvents and a spill-proof, vapor-free plastic gas can, Griesmer says.

"The overall goal with the plan is to demonstrate to the U.S. EPA what controls we will use and how that will allow us to meet goals by 2009," she says. "We don't have too far to go in Cincinnati."

For ambient air quality in Cincinnati to meet federal standards, the three-year average of the annual fourth-highest daily maximum eight-hour average ozone concentration must be less than or equal to 0.08 parts per million (ppm). However, the third decimal digit gets rounded down, so the area only has to reach 0.084 ppm to technically be in attainment. As of the 2004-2006 cycle, only one of the nine counties, Warren County at 0.086 ppm, was not in attainment.

"In order to be considered meeting the standard, every monitor in the Cincinnati metro area has to be meeting the federal standard," Griesmer says. "If you have one monitor not in compliance, the whole area is considered not in compliance. ... It's just the way the Clean Air Act is written."

Progress has already been made, Griesmer says.

"A lot of the things we're doing in Cincinnati are already mandated by the federal government," she says.

That includes lower emissions from coal-burning power plants, she says.

Every breath you take
Since the E-check system of emissions inspections for cars was disbanded in 2005, an extra 5.2 tons of volatile organic compounds and 4.4 tons of nitrous oxide have been emitted daily. New requirements for low RVP fuel -- RVP stands for "Reid Vapor Pressure, "the standard measurement for the vapor pressure of petroleum -- are supposed to eliminate more than 4.6 tons of volatile organic compounds, according to OEPA.

In May, OEPA received final approval to implement the new fuel.

"The petroleum industry needs a year to get ready," Griesmer says.

The other elements of the Ohio EPA's plan that also deal with the losses incurred with the end of the E-check system are controls on auto body paint shops and solvents used at companies with degreasing operations. Degreasing operations refer to any company that uses liquid solvent maintained below its boiling point to clean metal.

The Cincinnati metro area has been on the American Lung Association's list of the 25 biggest ozone polluters only once in recent years, clocking in as the 20th worst offender in 2006. But the organization still gave Cincinnati a failing yearly ozone grade and recorded 17 days when the level of ozone was "unhealthy for sensitive groups" and one day it was unhealthy for the entire population.

The Lung Association says ozone is particularly dangerous for people with asthma and other lung diseases, senior citizens and children. Ozone can trigger asthma attacks, coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain when inhaling deeply and even premature death, according to the Lung Association.

It is because of the health risks of smog that Sinclair and the Ohio Sierra Club aren't fully satisfied with OEPA's plan.

"The plan is under-reaching," says Sinclair, who wants further restrictions to reduce smog, including "restrictions on unnecessary diesel idling by land traffic" and an expanded transportation system in the city.

"I think that, even though the ozone standards are tightening, they're not tight enough, which is why we still have to put out smog alerts," she says.

Repeated efforts to obtain comment from Procter & Gamble officials about proposed consumer-product regulations were unsuccessful.

The OEPA PUBLIC HEARING on its plan for Greater Cincinnati is at 2:30 p.m. July 23 at the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, 720 Pete Rose Way, Downtown. For a copy of the plan, visit epa.state.oh.us/dapc.


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