Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Groundbreaking Legislation at Nelson Nameplate Implementing Green Chemistry Program

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Last week California State Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law two bills that make up the country's most comprehensive program regulating the use of chemicals that have been linked to potentially deadly effects on human health. Los Angeles manufacturer Nelson Nameplate Company was the site of the historic bill signing; on the heels of the company's own internal efforts to reduce the number of toxic chemicals the company uses to create metal nameplates and membrane switches.

We worked long and hard to reduce the number of toxic chemicals our company uses. Our efforts have not only resulted in better working conditions for our employees, but have also reduced the impact we have on the local and global environment

Last week California State Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law two bills that make up the country's most comprehensive program regulating the use of chemicals that have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption and other potentially deadly effects on human health.

Los Angeles manufacturer Nelson Nameplate Company was the site of the historic bill signing; on the heels of the company's own internal efforts to reduce the number of toxic chemicals the company uses to create metal nameplates and membrane switches. Nelson co-president Tom Cassutt was honored that his company was chosen for the historic moment. "We worked long and hard to reduce the number of toxic chemicals our company uses. Our efforts have not only resulted in better working conditions for our employees, but have also reduced the impact we have on the local and global environment," he said. "We're proud to be part of the leading edge in making a difference and effecting change."

The new law (AB 1879 and SB 509) now covers more than 80,000 chemicals now in circulation among many products lines (as opposed to the more narrowly focused bills of the past looking only at everyday household products like baby bottles, mattresses, toys, cosmetics and computers). Now, State regulators are charged with controlling the most dangerous and widespread chemicals first at the manufacturing stage in an effort to keep them from being handled by workers, being incorporated into products, or escaping into the air or water.

Lobbyists for manufacturers and automakers fought the bill intensively, citing that they currently comply with European standards that are currently stricter than current federal laws. However, some manufacturers are voluntarily taking the initiative to reduce the number of harmful chemicals and toxic waste involved in their production.

Cassutt and Nelson Nameplate worked closely with the nonprofit Institute for Research and Technical Assistance spending close to three years and more than $120,000 in researching ways to reduce the number of harmful chemicals his company used. "There were times when we literally tried 30 different substances and it was the 31st one that worked. It does require a commitment to stay the course," Cassutt said. "But it's more than paid for itself. If you can figure out how to get the toxics out of your business, the economic justification is there."

With just one improvement made to one process, Nelson Nameplate managed to reduce their smog-producing exhaust by 60%. Metal sheets used in manufacturing nameplates used to be cleaned in a process that involved dipping them into a 250-gallon vat of 1,1,1-trichlorethane. Now, that dangerous process has been essentially replaced by soap and water - getting the sheets even cleaner than before. In another example of improvements, the company now uses water-based solvents in its lithographic and screen printers that are used to make membrane switches. Furthermore, the high-solvent inks have been replaced with pollution-free ultraviolet inks.

The overall results have been astounding - not only environmentally, but also financially. In the last 10 years, Nelson Nameplate has reduced their smog-causing emissions by 80%. In addition, the initial $120,000 investment was recouped through no longer needing to purchase expensive chemicals in just 2 years.

Since its founding in 1946, Nelson Nameplate has manufactured metal nameplates, delivered rapid prototyping and overlays for use on products produced by Fortune 500 companies. Now, Nelson is also a leading manufacturer of membrane switches and a leader in membrane switch design.

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