National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP)

National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP)

Most auto body and collision repair shops generate air emissions and hazardous waste from painting processes regulated by the state or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule known as the “6H rule” (40 CFR Part 63 Subpart HHHHHH).

This regulation aims to reduce the quantity of hazardous metals in automotive paint. The five targeted metals are chromium (Cr), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), cadmium (Cd) and manganese (Mn), which are hazardous to the environment and workers’ health. This article focuses on the coating-related air quality regulations that may impact your business.

Three significant changes went into effect as of May 9, 2023:
  Electronic reporting – All reporting, including annual reports and each paint used, must be done electronically using the EPA’s CEDRI system ( unless exempted.
  Exempt notification – The exemption request process no longer requires supporting documentation and is now a notification. See link:
  Exemption based on the new definition – Businesses are now eligible for an exemption. They can simply submit a notification to the U.S. EPA indicating that they do not spray apply any target HAP-containing coatings.

Key requirements of the “6H rule:
  Train and certify all painters.
  Use ventilated spray booths with filters that are at least 98 percent efficient.
  Use high-transfer efficiency guns such as (HVLP) spray guns.
  Do not clean spray guns by spraying solvent through the gun, creating an atomized mist.
  Shops must submit initial required notifications to the MPCA and keep records sufficient to demonstrate they are always compliant.

Who does this rule apply to?
The 6H rule applies to paint stripping and various surface-coating operations, including auto body repair shops that use:
  Chemical strippers containing methylene chloride.
  Spray application of coatings to motor vehicles and mobile equipment to finish or refinish.
  Spray application of coatings that contain target HAPs, parts and products made of metal, plastic or a combination of metal and plastic.

EPA has a screening tool to help businesses determine their compliance requirement and eligibility for an exemption. The 6H regulatory navigation tool starts by reviewing definitions to confirm a shop’s activities are under the rule. If a shop does not spray coatings to motor vehicles or mobile equipment or sprays exclusively out of three-ounce or smaller cups, then an exemption petition is not needed, as the shop is already exempt.

The 6H tool asks up to three questions, beginning with the presence of Target HAPs in your paints. Target HAPs are cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese and nickel. The tool provides lists from major paint manufacturers showing which products contain target HAPs. If the paints are target HAP-free, you can petition for an exemption.

If you have target HAPs, the second question asks if you can switch to target HAP-free coatings. You can search the manufacturers’ paint lists for alternative formulas to see if a switch is possible.

The last question is about the composition of the paint. Some paints, such as a pearlescent, will have target HAPs above the threshold levels; however, the paint must be evaluated as sprayed, not as supplied. Since pearls are such a small paint component after toner and reducer, the pearlescent paint may be below the thresholds. After completing the questionnaire, exempt shops are provided with an example petition form and contact information for sending the form.

What if I’m not exempt?
Most manufacturers have removed target HAPs below allowable thresholds. Hence, many auto body shops can demonstrate they are exempt from the 6H rule. If your shop is not exempt, the requirements listed above apply.

Air permitting concerns
Auto body and collision repair shops must assess if an air permit is needed. Many body shops don’t need an air permit because most can qualify as insignificant or conditionally exempt facilities by following the operational, recordkeeping, and notification requirements similar to the 6H rule.

Best management practices
The rule encourages the implementation of the following best practices for worker health and environmental protection, such as:

  Using safer chemicals and cost-efficient technology.
  Follow OSHA guidelines and use proper protective equipment.
  Control dust with vacuum sanders and use low-VOC solvents and water-based paint.
  Train and certify painters and use well-ventilated spray booths.
  Use high-transfer efficiency guns and automated cleaning equipment with appropriate protective gear.
  Designate a health and safety manager, provide safety data sheets, and recycle solvents to reduce hazardous waste and disposal costs.

These practices result in less contact with toxic chemicals for the painter, less hazardous emissions to the environment, and dollars saved in paint costs for the shops. Here is a link to a 19-minute training video explaining the NESHAP 6H, or 6H rule, and best practices:

If you have questions about 6H or air permitting, contact the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency at (651) 282-6143 or email

Want more? Check out the August 2023 issue of AASP-MN News!