Tom Rauls, an industry colleague that many of you may know, or may have heard speak at conferences or have read his articles, reached out to me in mid February concerning a health condition that he wanted our readers to be aware of. Rauls was recently diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a group of disorders resulting in the disruption in the production of blood cells. Some types occur in response to chemical exposure, particularly toluene, xylene or any solvents with Benzene rings. According to the MDS in Focus website, this disease can hide from the immune system, which can result in disease progression if it remains unchecked. The symptoms usually take years before detection. Rauls stated that usually at the age of 60+ is when the bone marrow shuts down and can’t produce normal blood cells. Anemia, fatigue and pale skin set in.  

Rauls stated, “I served most of my first 25 years in industrial coatings facilities. We fitted our plant operators for particulate exposure, but lab workers were also exposed to plant vapors, as they permeate through all the operation. In the lab, vapor exposure and clean up were never a priority in the 1950s-1970s. We sometimes cleaned up with these solvents to get materials off our skin. The vapors numb the senses and penetrate the skin. Looking back, how foolish. I have recently asked myself how many of my colleagues have died from this disease without knowing the actual cause. If you are suddenly anemic or feeling fatigued, get tested.”

I am sad to report that when I sent a link of this Viewpoint article to Tom for his approval I received a message back from his wife saying that Tom lost his battle with MDS on March 2. There were only about 10 weeks between his diagnosis to his passing. I had no idea that he was so ill at the time of our discussion.

Rauls was passionate about bio-based products well before his diagnosis. We published an article he wrote in 2005 titled, Soy-Based Wood Stain Takes Environmental Approach to Preserve Wood and Concrete. And another in 2017 titled, Biobased Emulsion: Sustainable, Renewable and Educational.

During our last conversation he told me, “I have talked about bio-solvents for years. Now it is time to change our thinking and eliminate petrochemicals for good. Green bio-solvents are the answer. We just don’t consider them. There are false claims that these products are expensive and will not work. People making these claims just don’t know how to utilize them. There are several manufacturers of these solvents with multiple properties that mimic all the properties of petrochemicals, from Kb values to VOC compliance.”

A January 2022 report from states that, “On account of the stringent regulatory landscape, the adoption of green solvents and bio-based solvents, which integrate environmental friendly attributes with low to zero toxicity, and biodegradable, recyclable and non-corrosive features, is on the rise. Other factors steering growth in the usage of bio and green solvents include their outstanding degradable properties, rising prices of crude oil, and efforts to reduce reliance on petrochemical solvents.”

It is good to see that green solvents are gaining momentum. Hopefully this technology will prevent many others from suffering from diseases like MDS and cancer. I would like to thank Tom Rauls for bringing MDS to my attention, and for his years of work and research into bio-based products. PCI sends our condolences and best wishes to his wife and family. I know that he will be missed by many in the industry.