By Henry Nowicki, Ph.D.

It’s estimated that a billion pounds of activated carbon is manufactured each year. There are many starting materials, but the two that dominate the commercial market are coconut shells and bituminous coals. These activated carbon products are among the best available technologies (BAT) to clean water and air. A new association geared at promoting this, as well as growth and awareness of the industry, is just completing its third year.

The International Activated Carbon Manufacturers Association (IACMA), with headquarters in Washington, D.C., held its third annual meeting in Charleston, S.C., March 30-April 1, 2003. IACMA elected new officers and evaluated the future direction of the organization. The meeting welcomed attendees from over 20 activated carbon companies worldwide including the United States, Western Europe, Canada and the Far East.

Many different product manufacturers join together in official trade associations such as this to better advance their product to customers and regulators and reduce each member’s operation costs. As such, IACMA is focused on helping increase the global demand for activated carbon if only because it’s such an undervalued product. Not many like it have been substantially improved with significant price decreases over the last 10-15 years. Today, it’s one of the best buys for water and air purification. The purification benefits of activated carbon is accessible by many new and old customers for the activated carbon industry due to this low-price, high-performance material.

Technical program
The meeting for IACMA had a day for formal technical and business presentations. Speakers included Bob Thurnau of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory; Barney Burroughs of Building Wellness Consult-ancy Inc.; Guido Dona of CECA; Henry Nowicki of PACS Activated Carbon Testing Services Inc., and Jim Farmerie of HERC Products & AWWA Manufacturers Associates Council. Speakers’ email addresses, titles of their presentations and some PowerPoint downloads are available at  The second day was dedicated to strategic action committees. These included product stewardship, information transfer and testing methods.

The meeting was well conducted and should draw new members. Like any new association, the management is most important. IACMA has two excellent managers—Tucker Helmes, Ph.D., and Deborah Nichols. Helmes is an industry veteran and an associate of SOCMA’s Association Management Center. SOCMA is the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association. Through the center, it manages 14 related groups, from the Alkyl Amines Council to the Tributyl Phosphate Task Force.
Meeting attendees evaluated ways to expand the scope of IACMA. Some of the ideas included expanding membership to include customers, consultants, and service providers; initiating a technical exposition at the annual meeting; adding various presentations on new technologies and processes using activated carbon, and reaching out to international members through regional operating groups.

“The next action is to confirm this vision,” said Holmes, executive director. “We expect that the board will meet in early summer to make this new vision official and then charge the membership committee to recruit new members from a broad range of companies in the activated carbon industry.”

About the author
Dr. Henry Nowicki directs the testing, consulting, and training services at PACS Inc., of Pittsburgh. He has 24 years of varied experiences in the activated carbon industry. He is chairperson for the annual International Activated Carbon Conference in Mexico City, Mexico, March 1-2, 2004, and Pittsburgh, Oct. 21-22, 2004. Dr. Nowicki can be reached at email: or website:


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