PPG Industries will phase out lead from all paints by 2020
April 21, 2016 11:12 PM
A spray paint robot in a climate-controlled booth tests PPG auto paints at its Coating Innovation Center in Hampton. PPG is working to phase out lead from any coatings it uses. No lead is found in any of its consumer paints worldwide.
By Joyce Gannon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PPG Industries on Thursday said it will phase out lead from all of its paints by 2020.
Michael McGarry, president and chief executive of the Downtown-based coatings and glass company, told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting that PPG’s sustainability committee adopted the new policy to reduce and eventually eliminate lead from industrial paints used for automobiles, heavy equipment, bridges, airplanes and other applications.
Exposure to lead-based paint is known to cause severe health issues in children and adults, including damage to body organs, behavioral problems, and impairments to mental and physical development.
In a statement, PPG said it has complied with U.S. regulations that limit lead in consumer paints since the rules were introduced in 1978.
In a new corporate sustainability report published Thursday on its corporate website, PPG said lead is not used in any of its consumer paints worldwide.
During the annual meeting at the Fairmont Hotel, Downtown, Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of a San Francisco, Calif.-based activist organization, Occupational Knowledge International, asked the company to stop making and distributing lead paint in any coatings it produces. He presented a petition signed by more than 5,700 people.
The same petition was delivered to coatings giant Sherwin-Williams on Wednesday at its annual shareholders meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, where a small group of protesters showed up outside to pressure the company.
Sherwin-Williams told The Plain Dealer newspaper that protesters were misleading the public and that it does not produce lead-based paint for residential use.
However, according to the newspaper, Sherwin-Williams has licensees in other countries that select their own suppliers and some of their products contain unsafe levels of lead.
In Pittsburgh, Mr. Gottesfeld noted that Dutch paints maker AkzoNobel stopped using lead additives in 2011.
In response to Mr. Gottesfeld’s comments during PPG’s meeting, Mr. McGarry referred him to the company’s new sustainability policy and said PPG has no plans to develop new products that contain lead. The company also will develop plans to eliminate lead from products that become part of its portfolio through acquisitions, the new policy states.
Mr. McGarry said PPG, which had $15.3 billion in global sales last year, is working with existing customers that use its industrial paints to reformulate products for their specifications.
“This is a big reversal,” said Mr. Gottesfeld, who noted that his organization had made several earlier attempts to push PPG to make lead-free products. “I think it’s an excellent move.”
Prior to the shareholders meeting, PPG said first-quarter net income rose nearly 8 percent to $347 million, or $1.29 per share, boosted by income from six acquisitions in 2015 and by cost-cutting initiatives.
Sales were flat compared with a year ago at $3.7 billion.
Adjusted net income, excluding after-tax transaction charges, was $351 million, or $1.31 per share, beating Wall Street analysts’ average estimate of $1.30 per share. Adjusted earnings rose by 11 percent over first-quarter 2015.
Mr. McGarry told shareholders PPG has a “robust” pipeline of potential acquisitions and last year closed on deals totaling more than $400 million.
The company is on track to deploy between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in cash in 2015 and 2016 on acquisitions and share repurchases, he said.
Asked by retired PPG employee Kevin Riley of Shaler if the company had bid on rival paint maker Valspar, which Sherwin-Williams last month said it would buy for $9.3 billion, Mr. McGarry said that information was confidential but that Sherwin-Williams’ bid was “significantly higher” than any amount PPG has paid for acquisitions.
Also Thursday, PPG said it closed on the sale of its approximately 40 percent stake in Pittsburgh Glass Works. LKQ Corp., a Chicago-based automotive parts firm, bought it for $635 million. The majority share of PGW was owned by Kohlberg & Co., a private equity fund in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
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