KO’ing VOCs

Local outfit Knockout Collision Repair offers lower-VOC, more eco-friendly auto paint

Eddie Trujillo uses a special camera to capture images of a car’s paint. Trujillo calls the new camera “the newest, latest-greatest invention” to accurately match a vehicle’s color.

Eddie Trujillo uses a special camera to capture images of a car’s paint. Trujillo calls the new camera “the newest, latest-greatest invention” to accurately match a vehicle’s color.

photo by catherine beeghly

Low-VOC auto paint:
Knockout Collision Repair is located at 3225 Esplanade. Call 899-9202 or visit www.knockoutcollisionrepair.com for more info.

In October, Edward “Eddie” Trujillo, an employee at local autobody shop Knockout Collision Repair, returned from several weeks’ training in Southern California, where he became certified in the use of DuPont Cromax Pro waterborne paint products, which emit fewer volatile organic compounds.

Trujillo’s two-year waterborne-paint certification was acquired at a facility near Ontario, where each of the eight students got individual training. Half the time was spent in the classroom, and the other half actually using the paint. In addition, a technical consultant came to Chico to work at Knockout before and after the training.

The Chico-based automobile body shop has since shifted to the use of the lower-VOC, water-based auto paints in the process of restoring damaged cars, a big step in helping to curb the use of toxin-containing materials that state agencies say harm the environment and human health.

Indeed, the California Air Resources Board takes a tough stance on toxins found in paint used on cars. “It is imperative that the toxic emissions from automotive coatings be reduced or, depending on the compound, eliminated,” says its website (go to www.tinyurl.com/vocyuck to read more).

Stanley Young, CARB’s director of communications, said in an email that his agency is working to lower the amount of volatile organic compounds—VOCs—in paints. He said VOCs are known as “smog precursors.”

“They’re smog-forming chemicals that contribute to the production of ozone when combined with sunlight and other smog-forming chemicals, such as oxides of nitrogen from internal combustion engines,” wrote Young. “Levels of ozone are strictly limited under federal air-quality rules.”

Water-based paint is less toxic than traditional solvent-based paint, according to Young, and contributes to fewer health problems.

“Solvent-based automotive paints contain VOCs and hazardous air pollutants that contribute to air pollution and cause numerous adverse health effects … including eye and skin irritation and central-nervous-system effects. Organic solvents may also damage the liver and kidneys, and cause cancer, respiratory, reproductive and other [problems]. Waterborne [water-based] paints contain much lower levels of organic solvents and are less toxic than solvent-based paints.”

Car with hood being painted at Knockout Collision Repair.

photo by catherine beeghly

Trujillo has worked at Knockout Collision Repair for the last two of his 10 years in the body-shop business. He compared the composition of the new paint to what was previously being commonly used in the business: 85 percent of the older kind is composed of organic solvents, and 15 percent is the actual color material. With waterborne paint, only 10 percent is composed of organic solvents, 70 percent is water and 20 percent color.

“So the new paint still has solvents,” he offered, “but they’re kept to a minimum. And the actual color percentage went up 5 percent, so we can cover a car with fewer coats and less spraying into the air.”

The new line of paint also came with a cool new toy—a $10,000 camera that matches paint better than the human eye. Trujillo calls the Acquire Plus EFX camera “the newest, latest-greatest” invention in the business. It records three images of a car’s surface and matches it to the best paint formula. “It makes my job a lot easier. You can spend all day comparing paint chips. The system offers us painters a more speedy and effective way, and it saves so much time.”

The paint also dries faster, being water-based, and requires no waiting time between coats.

Kareem Abouzeid, who started Knockout in 1999 as “a one-man operation,” said his staff tested four different types of paint before going with DuPont’s. “It just had the best technology and performance as a paint. It helps us deliver a quality product, as well as being better for the environment.”

In the past, Abouzeid explained, auto paints were primarily solvent-based. “That’s been the normal way for years, but now the technology has developed into water-based paints. New cars now all have it, and it makes matching so much easier.”

While water-based paints aren’t required in Butte County, Abouzeid said they’re becoming mandatory in some counties in California. “In Europe, they’ve been using water-based paint for 20 years,” he said. “It’s tried and true, but it hasn’t been mainstreamed here. We just decided to be ahead of the curve with regard to what’s better for the environment, and better technology.”

Abouzeid said cars are also painted with an outer layer of clear coat. “That clear coat is still solvent-based, and that’s what protects it. Waterborne topcoat hasn’t been tested as being tough enough yet. It’s a gradual process, as the technology comes along. They keep testing until they find what will work, and develop one thing at a time,” he said.

Continuing in the vein of being green, Abouzeid added that—rather than discarding damaged or unneeded parts made of metal, cardboard, and paper—Knockout recycles them.

“Last year our business grew, but we were actually able to reduce the amount of garbage we had,” he said. “We keep working on it.”