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Study Shows Toxic Paints Cost Businesses Millions in Productivity Losses

Financial and workplace environment risks are the biggest issues concerning businesses today when it comes to paint application in areas where people are present, according to a study. In fact, well over 90 percent of survey respondents want to reduce the risks associated with paint applications, but don't know of a clear cut solution to do so.

The study, commissioned by Rust-Oleum and entitled "Industrial Paint Policy and Perception Survey," recently surveyed health and safety executives, plant facilities managers and business owners concerned with occupant and worker safety related to paint application and maintenance. Washington, D.C.-based StrategyOne, a market research and strategic communications agency, compiled the results. By sharing this data, Rust-Oleum hopes to raise awareness for paint-related odor discomfort, such as respiratory allergies, and encourage an industry consciousness for alternative solutions.

"We knew there was a problem with safely applying and maintaining painted surfaces. In 2001, a study conducted by The National Safety Council reported that 147,000 individuals were injured from respiratory conditions due to toxic agents that include solvents," said John Simons, vice president of marketing for Rust-Oleum Industrial Brands. "We just didn't realize how top of mind the concern was among so many businesses." According to Simons, Rust-Oleum commissioned the survey to measure awareness, gain insight into attitudes and perceptions about paint and its application where people work and uncover the true sentiments of executives who are responsible for making paint decisions.

"We were particularly surprised that although the majority of respondents were concerned about paint fumes, less than one-third (31 percent) considered it a high risk to be in the immediate area of paints or coatings with environmentally unsafe attributes," Simons said. "That's remarkable when thousands of businesses perform paint maintenance everyday within the proximity of building occupants."

Survey questions focused on three key areas - direct and indirect costs to organizations, risk to environment and safety, and paint performance. The over-riding themes within the results indicated that businesses want to reduce the cost of application and associated environmental risks to employees and others, but are unwilling to do so if new paint solutions do not offer the same or better performance as solvent-based products.

According to the survey, high performance paints that are quick drying and environmentally safe are the solution for decision-makers.

Nearly half, 41 percent, of businesses surveyed currently are paying painting crews overtime to get the job done during off-hours and as a result are searching for new ways to reduce job costs. Additionally, 77 percent of decision-makers wish they could schedule painters for indoor applications during normal business hours when labor rates are lower.

High performance paints are a necessity to businesses that need a chemical-and abrasion-resistant product, 96 percent of the survey stated. Ninety-eight percent of surveyed individuals wish there were high performance paints with zero volatile organic compounds (VOC) and hazardous air pollutants (HAP) on the market. VOCs are carbon compounds that when exposed to sunlight, undergo a photochemical reaction and produce smog. HAPs are chemical compounds that may cause adverse health effects.

Nearly all people surveyed, 91 percent, think using high performance paint reduces total job costs while 96 percent would consider painting during normal business hours if they could use a high performance coating with no odor, zero VOCs, and zero HAPs.

There is a significant need for high performance paints that can be used virtually anywhere. Eighty-one percent of businesses would like to find high performance paint with no solvents for painting near an open flame such as a furnace or other industrial application.

Environmental concerns also play a significant role when businesses select a paint product. Ninety-seven percent think paint fumes can affect employee productivity while half (50 percent) of all decision-makers surveyed have had employees, guests, or customers complain about fumes from interior or exterior painting projects.

Beyond fumes, skin or ingested exposure to certain solvents can also cause serious injury. Almost all of those surveyed (93 percent) think HAPs can have a negative effect on the health of those in the immediate environment. Businesses are becoming more sensitive to indoor air quality standards with 65 percent monitoring/measuring VOC emissions within respective facilities.

Overwhelmingly, 96 percent of the respondents want to eliminate employee productivity problems associated with using solvent-based coatings in close proximity to occupied public spaces.

"Businesses are feeling pressure at both ends of the spectrum. They need high performance, but must show a return on their investment while reducing workplace environment risks," stated Brian Paich, product manager for Rust-Oleum. "Our distributors and their customers are embracing our no odor, zero VOC, and zero HAP fast-drying Sierra Performance product line. We feel together we are working with the business community to lower maintenance budgets and provide safe, better performing, product alternatives."

According to Paich, the challenge for businesses is replacing high-performance, solvent-based coatings that typically contain high levels of VOCs and HAPs. Paich further states that Rust-Oleum's "Sierra Performance product line provides the best of both worlds - an environmentally friendly product with industrial performance."

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