Washington State’s Ink Ban Thwarted
PRINTING United Alliance’s quick action of identifying a potentially catastrophic bill in Washington state which would have banned inks containing chlorinating pigments prevailed with the bill being significantly revised, thanks to the Alliance’s launch of an “all hands on deck” movement to engage members and the industry to contact their legislators expressing their opposition. Read on for the full update and how the industry has succeeded.
Printing Industry Response
It was an “all hands on deck” moment for the printing industry which responded with a full throated and loud opposition to a Washington state bill that was on the verge of passing that would have banned inks containing chlorinated pigments. The bill passed the state House of Representatives and was on the verge of being passed by the state Senate when the word went out that it had to be stopped.
The PRINTING United Alliance Government Affairs staff responded quickly by pulling together an economic and technical impact analysis, publishing an article explaining the potentially devastating impact of the legislation and launching an Action Alert that allowed members in Washington State to contact their legislators expressing their opposition to the bill. The Alliance’s and members’ efforts worked beautifully.
The Latest Revisions to the Bill and Success
The result was a dramatic and significant revision to the bill that eliminated all provisions that would have imposed a ban on printing inks with chlorinated pigments. The revision also eliminated a requirement for the Department of Ecology (DOE) to issue additional regulations to ban the sale and distribution of printed and other products that would contain inks with pigments that contain inadvertent polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The bill that was almost passed was fundamentally flawed because it assumed that any pigment used in an ink formulation that contains a chlorine atom was equivalent to one that contains PCBs. That assumption is false as PCBs are not used in the manufacturing of any pigment, may not contain inadvertent PCBs, and any pigment that contains chlorine is not a PCB because they are different chemical entities. Nearly 150 pigments contain chlorine in their chemical structure, including those used in process yellow and cyan inks. Banning these pigments would cripple the printing industry, wholly based on the false assumption about PCBs.
Also caught in the ban would have been titanium dioxide, a pigment that is used in many inks, either alone in white inks or as an additive to other inks. The ban, if passed, would have completely shut down the printing industry in Washington State and it would not have any significant impact on water quality standards due to the prevalence of PCBs in the environment.
Some pigments used in printing inks can contain inadvertent PCBs due to the manufacturing process. These concentrations are very low, but not zero. All these concentrations are well below EPA’s TSCA limit of 25 parts per million (ppm) with an average not to exceed 50 parts per million (ppm).
Now the focus will shift to trying to show that EPA’s limits do not adequately protect human health and the environment from products that contain inadvertent PCBs. A petition that focuses on revising TSCA due to a water quality standard will be a difficult argument to make as TSCA is designed to protect from exposure to chemicals in products.
The version of the legislation that was passed and sent to the Governor will require DOE to petition the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulation on allowable levels of inadvertent PCBs.
Developing, submitting, and getting a response from EPA is a very involved process that requires significant resources and does not have a certain outcome. Responding to a petition would require EPA to consider the merits of the proposal, prioritize their response, and if there is agreement, institute a rulemaking initiate to revise the limit. EPA has not indicated how they would respond to a petition to revise the TSCA inadvertent PCB limits.
The proposed ban that was stripped from the legislation was designed primarily to help at least one paper recycling mill comply with an extremely stringent water quality standard of 7 parts per quadrillion, which is essentially zero and virtually impossible to meet. To provide some perspective, 1 part per quadrillion is 15 zeros to the right of a decimal point. A single part per million (six zeros to the right of a decimal point) is about 300 million times greater than a part per million. A limit this low poses several practical limitations because EPA does not have a compliance test method that can detect such low concentrations.
In addition, the test method that EPA uses does have the capability to measure that low suffers from inaccuracy and is subject to interpretation due to the prevalence of PCB in the environment. In other words, a “clean” sample taken for comparison purposes usually has PCBs in it, so the actual measured value of any other PCBs present is unknown. Consequently, this is why EPA cannot use this method for compliance because the exact PCB concentration cannot be determined.
The Alliance Works for Members and the Industry
PRINTING United Alliance is engaged with DOE and several workgroups such as the Spokane River Regional Task Force that is focused on identifying and reducing releases of PCB to the Spokane River and other waterways in the state. The Alliance is committed to representing the interests of the printing industry and ensuring that the collective voice of the industry is heard at all levels of government.
However, without the support of our members in Washington State that were willing to send letters to their representatives, this bill would most likely have passed as written. The letters made a huge impact and caused a complete turnaround in the legislation. The members in Washington State need to give themselves a collective pat on the back for a job well done.
In this article, Gary Jones, VP of EHS (Environmental, Health & Safety) Affairs, PRINTING United Alliance addresses state/local environmental regulatory issues. More information about environmental regulations can be found at https://www.printing.org/library/business-excellence/environmental-health-safety/safety-health or reach out to Gary should you have additional questions specific to how these issues may affect your business: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To become a member of PRINTING United Alliance and learn more about how our subject matter experts can assist your company with services and resources such as those mentioned in this article, please contact the Alliance membership team: 888-385-3588 / email@example.com.