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Understanding VOCs

9.25.98

"Controlling volatile organic compounds is a major issue for today's flexographic printer."

Printers are required by law to control emissions of VOCs, which come from a wide variety of sources. The USEPA estimates that the second largest source (behind vehicles) of VOCs are operations that use solvents -- including flexographic printers.

The Ozone Factor
VOC emissions are tightly controlled because they lead to the formation of ozone in the lower atmosphere, which is considered a health hazard. Under the Federal Clean Air Act, the USEPA has established acceptable levels of ozone that can be present in the lower atmosphere. Any area that exceeds the acceptable limit is considered a non-attainment area. The more polluted an area is, the more stringent the controls. The article also explores how ozone is produced, times and places of greatest ozone levels, and distinguishes between types of ozone in different atmospheric layers.

Compliance Options
If a facility is located in an area where VOC emissions must be reduced, there are usually two (2) compliance options: use inks that have a low VOC content (such as waterbased or UV inks); or install an emission-control device to destroy VOC emissions. The pros, cons, and feasibility of these options are discussed in this article.

VOC Destruction
In regulated areas of the country, where facilities must use solvent inks, add-on controls are options. The article  talks about incineration techniques and pollution prevention options to reduce VOC emissions.

Author: Doreen Monteleone, Ph.D., FFTA, Director of Environmental Affairs
Source: Flexo, September, 1998

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