News Watch

The EPA has issued a proposed rule that would remove methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) from the list of toxic air pollutants the agency is required to regulate under the Clean Air Act. After extensive review, EPA has concluded that potential outdoor exposures to MEK may not reasonably be anticipated to cause human health or environmental problems.

MEK is a primary solvent used in coatings, particularly vinyl lacquers, nitrocellulose lacquers and acrylics. EPA's proposal would remove MEK from a list of 188 air toxics for which EPA is required to develop national, technology-based emissions control standards.

However, MEK emissions still would be reported as part of the Toxics Release Inventory, as required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 and the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990. In addition, MEK would continue to be regulated as a VOC because of its contribution to smog formation. Facilities emitting MEK in areas not meeting national air quality standards for ozone would be subject to VOC emissions limits through other CAA programs.

The NPCA and industry believe that further delay in removing MEK will seriously undermine efforts to develop such materials. In its comments to the EPA, the NPCA argued that expedited finalization of the proposed rule's recommendation to remove MEK from the HAP list could reduce industry's coating manufacturing emission inventories, and may even render a facility currently a major source under the CAA to minor source status. "MEK has a number of physical and chemical properties that make it an attractive candidate for some of the reformulations needed to meet the Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards," NPCA said.

For further information, including the proposed rule and the Federal Register notice, go to the EPA's Web site at