Developing Progressive, VOC-Free Alternatives with TBF Environmental Technology’s Dave Pasin
October 8, 2014
JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have with us today Dave Pasin. He’s the President of TBF Environmental Technology. Welcome to Green is Good, Dave. DAVE PASIN: Thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to speaking with you. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, Dave, we’re going to be talking about a very important topic today that we have not covered enough on Green is Good, solvents in our world, and what TBF Environmental Technology is doing to help us get rid of solvents and the solvent problem in our household and in our businesses. But before we get to talking about what TBF Environmental Technology is doing, Dave, I want you to first talk a little bit about the Dave Pasin journey and story. How did you get to this point, involved with TBF doing this important work, and what were some of your inspirations and epiphanies along the way? DAVE PASIN: Well, thanks for asking. Actually, it’s somewhat convoluted, if you really want to know. I actually got a graduate degree in Psychology from the University of Victoria, and then went to the University of Toronto and lived in Toronto for a while. I couldn’t stand the weather in the East, and came back home to the West Coast. What happened was I was working for the city at the time, and it’s a good job and has lots of benefits, but I didn’t see myself as a big-time city worker for the rest of my life. I wanted to do something else. So, I was working out one day, and one of the fellows I was working out with, a friend of mine from the city, was joking around and said, “Maybe I’ll just start my own company.” My dad had been an entrepreneur and had developed over the years a very, very large construction, plaster and stucco company. So, I had sort of grown up with the attitude of being an entrepreneur, and he suggested, “There’s a paint company for sale in a suburb of Vancouver.” Paint, to me, came in a can. I didn’t know anything about it then. What the heck? So, I went and looked at it, and after what was minimal due diligence at the time, my brother and I bought it together and we owned it for about 18 years. I’m proud to say that from the time I bought it to the time we sold it, we overhauled the product line. It only made two or three products at the time. Over the course of time, I realized that things needed to change, and I remember from my time in Toronto, listening to the news that rivers would catch on fire in Akron and Lake Erie was incredibly polluted and fish were dying and things were incredibly toxic, things had to change. I had a friend, a roommate, actually, in Toronto, who worked for Environment Canada, and the St. Clair River at that time, somebody had dumped some kind of glycol into the river, and it had formed a giant blob at the bottom of the river that they actually had to vacuum up at the time. I thought that was horrible. So, I thought over time, this has to change. We have to leave the planet a lot better than how you found it. So, we were the first to develop, for example, waterborne oil-based paints for use in architectural coatings, so it was water-based paints you could wash up with warm water and soap. We were the first to do that in North America. We were the first to develop water-based fire retardants for use in roofing. Now it’s become all the rage, but we’re talking in the late ’90s, a chemist and I developed a unique coating to reflect heat and infrared from your house, so you paint the underside of your deck or the top of your roof or the deck underneath with this coating, and it would help increase your R-value below it, so it decreased the amount of heat or cold entering into the space. I’ve always been at the forefront, or tried to be at the forefront, or ahead of the curve, in terms of thinking about new products and safer products that would improve the health of people and the environment. So, that’s how it started. Then, a few years ago, I sold the company and started a company that distributed green solids for use in parts cleaning, so for use in cleaning aircraft or railroad trains, planes, automobiles, trucks, you name it. That’s how that started, and out of that, I was at a trade show, and a customer asked me, “Do you have a replacement for a product called methyl ethyl ketone?” which is very toxic. It emits a lot of smog. It helps create smog into the atmosphere, and we didn’t at the time. We were presenting a couple other planets that were based on biosolids that didn’t meet the need, so we spent about two-and-a-half years, and I worked with a very brilliant chemist who I hired, who’s a graduate student, and we developed our first product which was Ecosol 1, which was turning out to be a very effective alternative for methyl ethyl ketone. Out of that, when I was contacting people who I knew in the paint industry — that’s where we started — they asked do we have alternatives for things like xylene and acetone and hexane, and toxic materials like that. So, out of one product have grown three so far, and we’re working on some more, including a replacement for hexane and methylene chloride, which is a common paint stripper, which nobody has been able to do, and we’re getting there. But that’s the idea. So, the idea is about the use of safe solvents, whether it be in paints, coatings, inks, the oil and gas industry, whatever the case may be. So, the idea is to not only improve the environment, but help improve the safety of the worker, the end user, the person who’s using the product and what it’s contained in. That’s really been my focus over the last 20 years, whether it’s been in the paint industry or the solvent industry. In that time, I went back and got a master’s degree in counseling and marriage and family therapy and adolescent psychopathology just for fun. So, I’ve been a busy person. It’s sort of an eclectic group, that you go to school for things that you don’t actually do in real life. It’s a long, circuitous route that’s brought me here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: But, life is a journey. It’s just like sustainability, so that’s why it’s fascinating. You and I were chatting a little bit off the air, Dave, and that’s why our show, Green is Good, has become one of the great platforms for brilliant people like you who are making real changes in the world with regards to sustainability and our environment, so that’s why it’s an honor and a privilege to have great people like you on the show. But we have a short period today, and I want to get a lot of the story out, so I want us to go back to a little bit of step one, and do a little bit of Solvents 101 for our listeners because you have a wealth of information. For our listeners out there again, we’re honored to have today Dave Pasin on with us. He is the President and the genius behind TBF Environmental. Please go on the website. I’m on the website right now. It is chock-full of lots of information. It’s tbfenvironmental.com. Dave, what are solvents? Let’s just do Solvents 101 to start with. What are solvents, and where do we use solvents right now? Where can our listeners find them? DAVE PASIN: This is funny. It’s an interesting question because people don’t realize they use solvents every day, many times a day. The most common solvent people use is water. A solvent is basically something that will dissolve another material, so it can be a liquid or a solid or a gas, for that matter, but will dissolve another material. Water dissolves dirt, grease, oil. You use dish soap, hair soap, or the soap that you use when you’re showering or washing, those are all solvents. In fact, solvents are amazing because nobody realizes what they’re used in. Whether it’s for men or women in hair products all contain solvents, their perfume is a solvent, their cologne is a solvent. Every piece or article of clothing that they have is probably coming in contact with solvents, their shoes, their socks, their automobile, obviously, where they work. So, solvents are everywhere, and we use them many times a day when we don’t even realize it. So, solvents are an interesting concept because nobody thinks about it. They fly under the radar. To give you an idea, the largest industry in the world is the chemical industry, which is well over a trillion dollars a year in sales. The largest part of the chemical industry are solvents, which is about $400 billion a year, one of the largest industries in the world. When you think of solvents, most people think of something nasty that you use with paint, but they’re actually pervasive and they’re everywhere. That’s really what a solvent is and what they do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, talk a little bit about products that contain VOCs. We all hear about this VOC. What is a VOC in laymen’s terms, and what products do we use in our households today that are just sort of ubiquitous for our households, but are potentially bad and containing VOC? DAVE PASIN: Sure. VOCs are carbon-based chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature. While most people can smell high levels of VOCs, other VOCs really have no odor, so odor doesn’t indicate the risk for ventilation from a group of chemicals. Common VOCs include acetone, so for women, nail polish remover, benzenes are used things like air fresheners, ethylene glycol, which is an antifreeze but it’s also used in foods, formaldehyde which used as a preservative in a variety of different foods and leather products and a variety of different things, again it’s a preservative. In fact, it’s even used to preserve bodies in the mortuary. Methylene chloride, which is a common paint stripper, is used in a variety of different applications. Perchlorethylene, which is being phased out now, but is a common dry-cleaning fluid. Toluene and xylene are both used in a variety of different applications, everything from making gloves to tanning leather to paints and coatings to inks to contact cement, for example, things like that. So, those are the types of VOCs. Where you see them in your house is in carpets and adhesives, so you know when you put in a new carpet, that smell? That’s a VOC that’s incredibly toxic. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Also, you said air fresheners, I heard you say earlier? DAVE PASIN: Oh yeah, air fresheners, vinyl floors, varnishes, upholstery and fabrics in the upholstery, solvents, caulking, paints, a variety of different applications like that. In the home, this is really kind of shocking, because you’ll see it used in air fresheners, air cleaners, and the worst part is air cleaners produce ozone. Cleaning and disinfecting chemicals — I’d like to discuss this because it’s an interesting topic, and some people may not have heard of this, but a lot of antibacterial soaps, whether it be dish soap, and you’ll see some big-name dish soaps that talk about how wonderful they are for the environment, in fact contain a product called triclosan. Triclosan is a chlorinated product that actually is used to slow the growth of bacteria or fungi or mildew, but one of the problems is that is has serious endocrine effects, developmental and reproductive toxicity effects. Chronic toxicity can lead to, in some cases, carcinogenicity. It can be a carcinogen, can cause cancer. So, those are the kind of things that we’re washing our hands with, or washing other parts of our body or cleaning our dishes with. It’s going into the environment, so it’s going down into the drains, it’s going into our bodies, and we’re involved with that every day. It’s something people need to be aware of. JOHN SHEGERIAN: It’s harmful for people and the environment. DAVE PASIN: Absolutely, but it’s a common thing if you look at dish soaps, if you look at hand soaps that are antibacterial. Some use Epsom salt, which is a natural product. However, the vast majority use a product called triclosan, and I’ve been on this hobbyhorse for a while about how dangerous it is. In fact, we won’t use any product containing it in our home because I know what it does. But it’s a very common thing. You see almost all of them on television that’s advertised, if you look at the content label, you’ll see phosphates in it, which make it all sudsy. But you’ll also see triclosan, which is the antibacterial product, which is actually a toxin to humans. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there who just joined us, we have Dave Pasin on with us. He’s the President of TBF Environmental Technology. You can check out more about what Dave does at tbfenvironmental.com. We’re talking about, and Dave is an expert on, solvents in our world, how VOCs in solvents can be harmful for us if they’re used the wrong way, and how his company makes environmentally friendly solvents for a greener earth. You’re talking about different smells that we all have become very used to, or different products we’ve become used to. Is even a new car smell in a new car, is that a VOC? DAVE PASIN: Yes, it is, very much so. Everybody loves the new car smell, but that’s a huge VOC. It’s the off-gassing of the plastics or other synthetics used in the vehicle. Typically, it will contain different types of solvent to make those products. So, you can have that sweet smell, which can be ethylene glycol, or you can have a more acrid smell, which could be some of the xylene, it could be the methyl ethyl ketones again a sweeter smell. So, you have a variety of different odors within your car. A new car smell can actually be quite toxic. It relates to your home as well because people put plug-in fresheners into their home, or spray their home with air fresheners, and those are VOCs. So, not only are they contributing to ozone formation and lessening of air quality within their home, but they’re actually dangerous to your health. So, those are the kind of things that we need to be afraid of or be aware of. For example, the plug-in ones and some of the aerosols are often made from benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen, but it evaporates very quickly into the atmosphere, and it can carry a variety of different things. So, you’ll smell a nice potpourri scent in your house. What you’re actually smelling is the potpourri scent carried by the benzene. You have to be very, very careful about those kinds of things. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, on a net basis, we’ll just say that VOCs, for the most part, are bad for us, bad for us personally, and bad for the environment. Our goal should be to reduce the VOCs both in our house and our workplace. That would be good for us personally and our families, our friends, our businesses, and for the environment at large. DAVE PASIN: Absolutely. Just to give you an idea of the effects of VOCs, they can cause eye, nose, or throat irritation, it causes headaches, nausea, and vomiting, dizziness, and they’re particularly brutal on asthmatics. I happen to be asthmatic. When I get into an environment that’s very polluted — for example, I’ve been to China, I’ve been to some major cities where the air quality is very low — I suffer from very serious asthmatic effects. I have trouble breathing, that kind of thing. I have to use my puffer and that kind of stuff, as millions of others do. So, what’s also interesting is when you’re exposed to long-term or chronic effects of VOCs, it’s been linked to cancer, liver damage, kidney damage, central nervous system damage. So, those are the kind of things that you need to be aware of. What I wanted to point out, which is interesting, I know that I’m a great believer in progressive legislation. I think progressive legislation leads to a better environment. We’re seeing that now with improvement of air quality in major cities over the ’80s. You can actually track this. There was actually a report on the news a little while ago. I read about it. You can actually track the improvement in the air quality in a city to a lessening of medical issues that are reported, either emergency rooms or doctors, such as asthma, birth defects, increased birth weight — a child weighs more because it’s healthier — in terms of cancers, in terms of irritations, skin issues, that kind of thing. Those are the kind of things you can actually trace to improvements in air quality and lessening of VOCs in the environment. Those are traced across the United States and Canada, so the air quality improves, so does quality of life, so does health. Those are critical things, and I don’t think that a lot of companies that pollute at will is good for the long-term benefit of A) the company and B) more importantly, the environment and the individuals that have to live in those environments. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Now that you’ve set this whole thing up with regards to VOCs and we’ve had a good discussion about solvents, I want to really now talk about your great company, TBF. I want you to explain to our listeners why are the solvents that you create considered green, and how does that make us have a better environment? Get a little bit into, so we understand, ZemaSol, Ecosol and Tergisol, some of your great new products that are already getting used throughout the United States and North America. So, we have about five minutes left. If you could share with our listeners about what TBF does, and how it’s making the world a better and greener place. DAVE PASIN: Absolutely. I appreciate the opportunity. What TBF’s goal is is to provide safe solvents. So, what our goal was was to produce, for example, Ecosol, which is a replacement for use of methyl ethyl ketone and in some cases acetone. It works great as a paint cleaner. It doesn’t irritate your skin, and it’s a very, very low-VOC — in fact, its class is exempt because it’s comprised of exempt materials. So, it’s designed for industrial use as a solvent for use in paints, coatings, inks, adhesives, in the oil and gas industry. Out of that, as I mentioned previously, we developed a variety of other products that we felt there was a need for as an alternative for use in the workplace. We’re finding more and more companies want to be responsible and do the right thing and reduce the amount of pollutants and VOCs that they put into their products. Most people think of paints, for example, but it’s used in inks. When you open a can of a solvent-based glue, those all have solvents in them, like contact cement or your perfume, for example, or it could be cologne or it could be even some of the medications that you take which are synthesized in chemicals. Those are the kind of things that we’re trying to improve. The other product we have is a new product called ZemaSol. ZemaSol is a replacement for xylene and in some cases toluene. It’s a VOC-exempt material. It’s comprised of VOC-exempt materials. The toxicity level is approximately double to triple what its alternatives may be, which would be xylene or toluene. It’s designed again to improve air quality, so it has far less odor, and it’s a lot safer. As I say to people, with any of our solvents, if you drink them, you’re going to get sick, and if you’re stupid enough to drink them, you’ll just get very, very sick, but you won’t die, unlike some of the other materials. Our products are very low toxicity, so they’re not linked to cancer, respiratory issues, irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat, that kind of thing. They’re designed to be very safe for the worker, improve the quality of environment for the worker and for the end user, the person who ends up using the product. The other thing that we’re very proud of, with Tergisol for example, which is a replacement for acetone for use in precision cleaning, like cleaning aircrafts, for example, or motors or whatever the case may be, again is designed to have a low odor. It’s designed to have a good solvency, but it’s designed to improve the overall environment, so as it dries or evaporates into the environment, it won’t contribute to smog. Those are the critical components, so it’s a lot safer to use in a variety of different ways. They’re designed for different purposes, but they’re designed to maximize the safety of the worker, maximize the safety of the environment, and, in fact, can minimize the contribution to pollution that may be affected by other materials which it’s contained in. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Dave, we have about a minute-and-a-half left, and I want you to give any final thoughts to our audience on your great products. For our listeners out there, you can go to Dave’s website, and he has podcasts on each of these products, and you can do a deeper dive on all of these great products, but go on. You have the last word here, Dave, before we’ve got to say goodbye. DAVE PASIN: I appreciate that. Thank you. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Sure. DAVE PASIN: I guess what I’m asking people is read the label. When you go to your paint store, ask if this product contains ZemaSol or Turgisol or Ecosol, one of the TBF products, which are known to be safe. Find out. Do some research before you buy something. If not, write the paint company or phone the company, whoever manufactures the product you’re using, and ask why aren’t you using a safer solvent. I want something safer for my kids, for myself, for my family, that kind of thing. I think it’s a critical component people need to look at. When you do that, you’ll find that you create a better environment within your household and within your community. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s great advice, perfect advice. Well, Dave, thank you so much for coming on Green is Good. For our listeners out there that want to learn more about Dave’s great products, go to tbfenvironmental.com. Thank you, Dave, for being an inspiring entrepreneur and sustainability superstar. You are truly living proof that green is good. DAVE PASIN: Thank you.