VOCs and you

The biggest environmental issue facing the paint industry today is that of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions and the effect that the solvents contained in paints have on the air we breathe. In the regulations VOCs are 'solvents' that have a boiling point below 250°C at standard atmospheric pressure.

VOCs are emitted from many sources including fuels, numerous industrial operations and household products such as cleaning agents, cosmetics, aerosols and paints. They can accelerate the rate nitrogen oxides (from combustion processes) react with sunlight to create low level ozone and photochemical smog.

Even though less than 3% of all man-made VOCs in Europe (and less than 1% in the UK) come from decorative paint, we have long implemented a voluntary industry agreement for carrying out VOC reductions in products and for displaying VOC content information on product labels. This is to encourage customers to choose products with lower VOC content, but extensive R&D work since the mid-1980s means the products we supply are still meeting end user needs. For example, our Diamond Range of water-based products offers highly durable, long lasting protection – a real alternative to solvent-based finishes.

Now official UK legislation, based on EU directive 2004/42/EC is in place and covers coatings applied to buildings, their trim and fittings and associated structures when applied for decorative, functional and protective purposes. This directive is a two stage process; the first stage, for which ICI Paints is fully compliant, started in January 2007 and this will have little or no effect on the quality and properties of ICI Paints' products. The second stage starts in 2010, when even stricter limits will be applied, meaning major changes to traditional solvent-based coatings such as trim products.

The paint industry has agreed to use standard terminology, text and categories for all products. New labelling began to appear in April 1998 on ICI Paints' main product lines and is now used across the full product range, both Trade and Retail.

ICI Paints uses two label formats; the text box panel (shown below) which forms part of the new legislation...

...and also a globe label (shown right) as initiated by B&Q - this is a voluntary label which ICI Paints uses on all products.

VOC content 0% to 0.29%
VOC content 0.3% to 7.99%
VOC content 8% to 24.99%
VOC content 25% to 50%
Very High
VOC content more than 50%

Further information

For further information visit the British Coatings Federation website.

Minimal VOC content Low VOC content Medium VOC content High VOC content Very High VOC content