“Low-to-no-VOC” = a juicy marketing claim for Architectural & Industrial Maintenance (AIM) coatings in our ever-greener construction environment.
Shockingly, however, there are some manufacturers who claim their products are low-to-no-VOC, when in reality, they do not meet the standard! Sometimes that’s by design, and other times by mistake. But the fact is, it happens.
As you probably know, VOCs — Volatile Organic Compounds — are solvents and other materials that get released into the air when paint, paint strippers, varnishes, adhesives and other solvent-containing products dry. VOCs are an ingredient in smog.
So the EPA, and many states individually, regulate how much VOC can be in products.
With all the regulation, you’d think if a manufacturerer claimed a product to be low-to-no-VOC, it would be. Alas, the regulations are there, but there are so many manufacturerers, and even more products, that consistent government checking and enforcement isn’t possible.
This can be a problem if you specify or apply an allegedly low-to-no-VOC product on a “green” project — and then it turns out the product is not “low-to-no.” You wouldn’t get in trouble with regulatory authorities, if you had the manufucturer’s literature to back you up — though the manufacturer might have some explaining to do — but you likely would have to go through the time and trouble of making it right with the client.
Your reputation might even be affected.
So it is a great idea to be a little skeptical of low-to-no-VOC claims. Our Regulatory Affairs Director Dwayne Fuhlhage, has developed this handy checklist of questions to use when judging VOC claims. It’s pretty sad that we have to judge them, but bottom line — you’ll be glad later if you know what you’re putting on your building now.
For Dwayne’s full discussion of the VOC issue, take a look at his white paper “Know your VOCs.”
Here are some questions to ask to help make sure VOC claims are what they ought to be:
• Does the manufacturer have regulatory management programs in place to assure understanding of all district, state and federal AIM VOC rules?
• Does the manufacturer clearly state where a product is compliant?
• Is the manufacturer willing to disclose a product’s VOC content?
• For products marketed as low solids coatings, is the solids content less than 1 pound/gallon?
• Is the product formulated with flammable or carcinogenic exempt solvents?
• Are claimed exempt solvents on the state and federal AIM exempt solvents list?
• Does the manufacturer provide safety information for finished product made from concentrates and field diluted with exempts (e.g. acetone)?
• Is VOC information consistent between the MSDS, technical data and label?
• Is the manufacturer attempting to market reactive curing materials as zero VOC?
• Is the manufacturer willing to certify, on company letterhead, that a product is zero VOC?
• Does the product meet critical performance criteria such as water vapor transmission?
• Does product use require waste generation?
• Is the product properly categorized as a sealant or coating?
• For South Coast AQMD compliance claims, is the manufacturer registered with the district under Rule 314?
Hope that helps. More later!