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RE: Spontaneous Combustion of Paint Booth Filters

Title: RE: Spontaneous Combustion of Paint Booth Filters


I just finished reading this report.  It's an interesting study but it really doesn't tell us anything that hasn't been known for at least 50 years. The spontaneous combustion of paint soaked rags is well known and documented.

The report also fails to identify and assess the main driver for fires, the polymerization of the coating material.  Coating materials that cure by reacting with oxygen in the air give off heat.  Some, like linseed oil, polymerize rapidly and are thus prone to fire.  Slowly reacting enamels and resins are less prone to fire. Some coatings do not cure by reaction with oxygen and are not prone to fire.  Therefore, the reported results only apply to the type of coating material tested which was not identified.

Once you fix the type of coating material you're looking at, then solvent content and composition come into play.  It's my opinion, just opinion, that an increase in fires could be due to the ban on the use of chlorinated solvents in paint.  Chlorinated solvents were used at one time to keep reportable VOC levels down.  They are also very volatile.  When the paint started to polymerize and heat up, evaporation of these solvents resulted in cooling.  By switching to a less volatile and flammable solvent, less heat is removed from the drying filter. Add air and you have a fire. Another reason for more fires in your area is that many shops have moved away from using water wash booths.

As for prevention, the report doesn't go far enough.  Frequent change-outs may indicate that the shop is over working its booth.  The removed filters are wet with paint because they haven't been given enough time to dry out.  For shops operating 8 hours a day, they could run the system 24/7.  This would likely reduce the chance of fire. But it also might get them into trouble if this practice is viewed as allowing a controllable VOC to be emitted to atmosphere or as treatment of a hazardous waste.  That's why some facilities place the dirty filters into a drum full of water and ship them off for incineration.  The disposal of wet paint filters to trash, as reported, sounds like a violation of disposal laws.

Just my views, thanks for sharing this data.

Mike Callahan, PE
Principal Chemical Engineer
Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.
1111 S. Arroyo Parkway
Pasadena CA 91105
(626) 568-7005

-----Original Message-----
From: Sue Schauls [mailto:Sue.Schauls@uni.edu]
Sent: Thursday, September 05, 2002 11:36 AM
To: P2 Tech Listserve; P2 providers in Region 7
Cc: Ed Weiler
Subject: Spontaneous Combustion of Paint Booth Filters

Based on research conducted through the IWRC's Small Business Pollution
Prevention Center, the finding of our investigation on Spontaneous
Combustion of Waste Paint Booth Filters is now available. This
laboratory research project endeavored to identify the cause of
spontaneous combustion of used paint booth filters. The problem plagues
some paint shops. The experiment was conducted by Combustion Science &
Engineering, Inc. (www.csefire.com). The full report and a summary of
waste management recommendations can be viewed at:


Practices to consider to minimize the potential for spontaneous
combustion of used paint booth filters:

Avoid disposing of waste paint booth filters in commercial dumpsters
where the filters can be compressed and insulated by other combustible
wastes. This is especially true of mechanical or hydraulic compaction

Avoid disposing of waste paint booth filters in trash bags that are
picked up by
compactor-type garbage trucks.

Used small metal trash containers, such as 55-gallon drums, to store
prior to disposal and do not compress the filters significantly.

Keep waste paint booth filter storage containers at as cool an ambient
temperature as possible (i.e., locate in shade or in cooler places
within buildings) as higher ambient storage temperatures increase the
probability of a fire dramatically.

Use low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints.

My apology for cross posting,
Sue Schauls
SBPPC Program Manager

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