Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) regulations have been present in our industry for decades. When I listen to people speak about VOC regulations, often there is not clarity on what VOCs are, what products the regulations cover, and what governing agency’s regulations apply.
VOCs are carbon-based chemicals that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone (smog) and reduce air quality. They are found in many household and industrial paints, wood finishes, and adhesives.
Architectural and Industrial Maintenance (AIM) VOC regulations were established to set limits on the amount of VOCs that can be emitted from consumer products, and from industrial or commercial products applied on-site to stationary structures, including coatings, paints, adhesives, and sealants. The intention is to reduce the amount of VOCs released into the atmosphere to help improve air quality and protect public health in North America. The limits vary depending on the category the product falls into, what it’s being used for, and where it is being used.
In the hardwood flooring industry, common products that are regulated by VOC regulations include: stains, sealers, finishes, paints, adhesives, and solvents. It can get a little confusing because there is more than one category that our sealers and finishes fall under, and there is more than one agency publishing VOC regulations. To make it even more confusing, products may be regulated at the federal, state, and local levels.
Many states have adopted the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s national AIM/VOC regulations standards. California has their own rules and are known for having the most stringent VOC regulations in the country. The California Air Resource Board (CARB) has multiple Air Quality Management Districts under its umbrella, with the South Coast Air Quality Management District having the strictest control measures. Other states have established their own regulations to meet air quality attainment goals. Generally, these states adopt model rules from the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) or the Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium (LADCO).
It’s important to understand the regulations you are complying with when on a job. Local distributors or your coatings or adhesive manufacturer can be a great resource for this information.
Here is a table for your quick reference of current AIM/VOC Regulations in North America.
Julie Russell is the marketing and communications director for Rudd Company Inc., brand owner of Glitsa, located in Seattle, Washington. For more information about Glitsa, visit glitsa.com.