It’s no secret that Ecological Fibers removed solvents in our materials decades ago. But what are solvents, and why was it so important for us to remove them?
When Ecological Fibers was founded by Stephen Quill in 1972, there was an internal promise made to both the environment and our employees. This promise was to assure that no Ecological Fibers employee would ever become ill due to working conditions or production materials.
Solvents were a major component of the paper coating business and it was crucial to step away from their reliance, no matter how difficult the task. Our vow to completely rid Ecological Fibers of solvents has resulted in safer facilities, fewer CO₂e emissions, and revolutionary methods that have led to the industry’s first water-based coating materials.
An Environmental Disaster
Solvents are naturally-occurring organic compounds, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t detrimental to the environment. When solvent fumes are emitted, they react with the sunlight producing an air pollutant called “ground-level ozone.” Typically known as “bad” ozone, this atmospheric layer is closest to the Earth’s surface (troposphere), thusdirectly affecting the air we breathe. The rise of pollutants in this layer is also a key component to climate change, contributing to higher temperatures and moisture levels. While solvents are far from the only contributor to ground-level ozone, their impact cannot be understated. Ecological Fibers making the decision to remove them from our practices has helped in allowing us to reach CO₂e emission levels that are 97.12% lower than our industry’s average. Unfortunately, the use of solvents doesn’t only affect our atmosphere.
Effects on Your Health
We know that solvents affect the air we breathe, and with that comes great health consequences. Solvent exposure has been linked to neurotoxicity in both humans and animals. While the majority of solvent-related illnesses come from the inhalation of its vapors, they are also dangerous when ingested or exposed topically. Because solvents can cause harm even in the short-term, it is important to understand the dangers and take precautions whenever in close proximity of solvent use. Paper coating and related industries often pose a high-exposure rate, which is why it was crucial for Ecological Fibers to eliminate them from our facilities.
Beyond being health and environmental threats, solvents are highly volatile compounds. Many solvents used in manufacturing are flammable and corrosive, and can create extremely unsafe working conditions and pose a threat to surrounding areas.
The original building that houses our Rhode Island plant was specifically designed for possible chemical explosion, held together with blast doors and clips to allow the roof to release. The building is still in use by Ecological Fibers, however since the removal of solvents and other volatile substances, this is no longer a threat. This ensures the safety of our employees, as well as our Pawtucket, Rhode Island neighbors.