In the United States, regulations governing use of adhesives and sealants are constrained to the area of Air Quality. Some VOCs react with nitrogen oxides in the air in the presence of sunlight to form ozone. Although ozone is beneficial in the upper atmosphere because it absorbs UV, thus protecting humans, plants, and animals from exposure to dangerous solar radiation, it poses a health threat in the lower atmosphere by causing respiratory problems.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states VOCs are defined as "any compound of carbon, excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, and ammonium carbonate, which participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions," but also includes a list of dozens of exceptions for compounds "determined to have negligible photochemical reactivity.
In 1998, the EPA finalized a rule mandating VOC limits for a wide range of consumer products, including adhesives and sealants. These limits represent the national regulation where states have not incorporated their own individual rules. For more information, please click here
While EPA has not drafted a national standard for industrial adhesive applications, it has developed a Control Technology Guideline (CTG) designed to assist states or local air pollution control authorities in developing approaches for controlling VOC emissions from miscellaneous industrial adhesive application processes. The information contained in the document is provided only as guidance. States can use the information to make their own determination on the best approach to controlling VOCs for industrial adhesive application processes in a particular nonattainment area. For more information, please click here.
Historically, California took the lead in crafting VOC limits for a variety of products, including adhesives and sealants. The state has 13 Air Quality Management Districts (AQMD)/Air Pollution Control Districts (APCD), each with its own set of VOC limits prescribed by products. The most stringent standards are set by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), which not surprisingly encompasses the entire Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Below is a list of California Air Districts and their adhesives rules:
South Coast Air Quality Management District (Rule 1168)
Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Rule 8-51)
Ventura County Air Pollution Control District (74-20)
Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District (Rule 460)
Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District (Rule 353)
San Diego Air Pollution Control District (Rule 67.21)
Yolo Solano Air Quality Management District (Rule 2.33)
Placer County Air Pollution Control District (Rule 235)
San Jaoquin Air Pollution Control District (Rule 4653)
Tehama Air Pollution Control District (Rule 4:40)
Shasta Air Quality Management District (Rule 3-32)
Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District (Rule 1168)
El Dorado Air Quality Management District (Rule 236)
California's Air Resources Board (CARB) has mandated limits on VOCs for a variety of consumer products used around the house and home, including adhesives and sealants. Retailers and distributors who sell to the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) market are required to follow CARB's regulations, detailed below.
CARB Consumer Rule: The prescribed maximum limits listed below are based on a weight percentage of Total VOC to Total Product:
State Regulations/Ozone Transport Commission
The Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) is a multi-state organization responsible for developing and implementing regional solutions to the ground-level ozone problem in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. In the mid 2000’s the OTC has developed a model rule for limiting VOCs in consumer products, including adhesives and sealants, as well as rule specific to industrial/commercial applications of adhesives. Individual state environmental agencies comprising the OTC, for the most part, have incorporated the model rules’ limits into their state regulations.
Four other states have incorporated regulations specific to adhesives—Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana have all adopted consumer product rules limiting VOCs. The latter three have adopted US EPA’s CTG limits for industrial adhesive products for metropolitan areas of their respective states that are having difficulty meeting ozone reduction requirements.