A collaboration between two leading companies produces the world’s first air cleaning paint

Filipino city dwellers spend significant amounts of time in transit.

Considering the fact that an average of 150,000 vehicles pass by Manila’s busiest highways daily, chances are that if we’re headed somewhere, we’re either driving or commuting.

Most Filipinos are well aware of the risks associated with traveling by automobile—swerving cabs, buses going beyond the yellow line, drunk drivers, speeding tickets. But most people are oblivious about the health related risks brought about by poor air quality caused by NOx (nitrogen oxide) and other highly reactive gases generated by vehicle emissions.

Breathing polluted air is deadlier than one might think. According to the World Health Organization, three million people are killed worldwide by outdoor air pollution every year.

Scientists from the European Network of Excellence on Atmospheric Composition Change (ACCENT) also stress the dangerous link between air pollution and climate change— when combined, the negative effects they have on our health and the environment are multiplied. It is no surprise then that in heavily polluted cities like Metro Manila, disasters like Typhoon Ondoy and Milenyo happen.

Paint for Cleaner Air Every little bit counts in the fight against air pollution.

In the country, a sustainability wave is happening as both individuals and corporations seek ways to reduce their carbon footprints. The paint manufacturing industry, in particular, is in the middle of an eco trend.

“Everyone is going green,” shares Johnson Ongking, vice president of Pacific Paints Philippines, Inc., the manufacturer of the Boysen paint brand. “In the global paint industry, much attention has been given to lowering the VOC (volatile organic compound) levels of paint, making it more eco-friendly. VOC are solvents in paint that give off harmful emissions and, when combined with NOx, leads to smog.”

More than just riding the ecofriendly paint wave, however, Boysen has taken it a step further by introducing Boysen KNOxOUT, an air-cleaning paint line that provides an innovative approach to reducing nitrogen oxide levels in the air. “KNOxOUT is not just a new product for us, but a new product globally,” says Ongking. “It contains CristalActiv photocatalytic technology, which is ultrafine titanium dioxide (TiO2) that uses light energy to transform water vapor into free radicals that break down noxious NOx and VOC molecules into harmless substances.”

While most eco-friendly paints in the market today are focused on minimizing their environmental impact by lowering VOC levels, KNOxOUT establishes a new paradigm for green paints. “KNOxOUT is not only a low VOC paint when wet, but it is also ‘eco-active’ as it takes out VOCs from the air the moment it dries up,” says Ongking. “It is essentially an air purifier, first, and a paint, second.”

‘One Wall, One World’

To further address the threat of air pollution, Boysen launched its “One Wall One World” campaign, an advocacy project with the Clean Air Initiative–Asia (CAI-Asia), Partnership for Clean Air (PCA), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP). Armed with the air-cleaning technology found in Boysen KNOxOUT, the campaign encourages Filipinos to take part in cleaning the noxious air of Manila— one wall at a time.

Its biggest project to date is the world’s largest de-polluting paint trial in the Guadalupe Metrorail Station along EDSA, the busiest highway in Metro Manila. “We made a very strong claim when we launched Boysen KNOxOUT, so we organized a scientific trial with Cristal Global and the Manila Observatory, both leading authorities when it comes to air pollution,” says Ongking.

The trial, which involved installing 15 pollution sensors and painting over 6,200 square meters using approximately 1,000 liters of KNOxOUT, revealed that the eco-active paint could take out 1.3 tons of NOx from the air yearly.

“According to the report given to us by the Manila Observatory after the trial, Boysen KNOxOUT in the MRT station cleans the emissions of at least 30,000 cars passing the area per day,” shares Ongking.

The beauty of the technology behind KNOxOUT is that as long as the paint is on the wall, the process of photocatalysis continues. “It does not get used up in the process of breaking down pollutants,” reports Ongking.

“It will keep cleaning the air as long as paint stays on the surface and it is exposed to light and humidity. It also has the ability to perform under fluorescent light conditions. This was proven in an indoor car park trial done in Paris.”

While the KNOxOUT line is significantly more expensive than regular paint (it costs P1,190 at 4 liters), Ongking shares that a number of corporations have already expressed their interest in using the product. “The thing is you can’t really put a value to clean air, which was initially why we had a hard time selling the product,” shares Ongking.

“But after the Guadalupe trial, people realized how powerful the product is and we’ve gotten commitments from companies since. More than anything, the power of KNOxOUT lies in the fact that it is an empowering technology.

People no longer need to feel helpless against air pollution. Now they can do something about it.”

This article was published in the Business Agenda section of the Manila Bulletin, September 5, 2010