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Pollution Prevention Fact Sheet
Sector:  Vehicle Repairs and Body Shops

Paint Solvents 

What are Paint Solvents?
What is the Problem?
Are Used Solvents Hazardous Waste?
Using Solvents
    Reduce
    Reuse
    Recycle
Prevent Spills and Leaks
Storage
Take Care To


What are Paint Solvents?

Waste paint thinners and reducers are used in paint preparation, painting and clean-up. They may contain acetone, toluene, methylene chloride, xylene, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) or other organic chemicals.

What is the Problem?

Most solvents are highly volatile. In their gaseous form, they can react with sunlight to form ozone or smog. When ground level ozone forms, it can irritate and damage lungs. This is a particular problem for people who are afflicted with lung diseases such as emphysema, cystic fibrosis or cancer. The elderly, children and individuals with impaired immune systems are also particularly sensitive to these pollutants in the air. Of even greater concern is the fact that several of the solvents are suspected or known human carcinogens. In these cases, it is best to use caution and reduce exposure as much as possible.

Solvents also have been found to contaminate water supplies. A small amount of solvent can make water unfit for drinking. Treatment systems to remove these contaminants can cost thousands of dollars.

Are Used Solvents Hazardous Waste?

Used thinners and reducers from paint preparation, mixing and clean-up are typically hazardous wastes due to ignitability or toxicity, or because they are identified on the RCRA lists of hazardous waste.

Because they are hazardous, they must be recycled or disposed of as a hazardous waste. This means they cannot be simply left to evaporate or disposed of at a landfill or resource recovery facility. Recycling is a preferable solution for waste solvents. As a last resort they may be disposed of at a permitted hazardous waste facility using a permitted hazardous waste transporter. A list of permitted transporters can be obtained from the DEP by calling (888) 424-4193.

Using Solvents

Reduce

Reuse

Recycle

Reclaiming used solvent can reduce the amount of new solvent purchased, and also the amount disposed of as hazardous waste. It may be used for equipment cleaning or for formulating primers and base coats. Care must be taken if you use it for paint formulation however, as it might create problems if the solvent is not sufficiently pure.

Prevent Spills and Leaks

Storage

Take Care To:

For more information please call the Office of Pollution Prevention at (860) 424-3297, e-mail Pollution Prevention Coordinator or write to:

Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Waste Management
Office of Pollution Prevention
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127

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Last Updated:  January 1998

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