Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) Regulations

Both nationally and within certain individual states, rules governing use of adhesives and sealants are aimed at maintaining air quality. These laws are in effect because certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in some adhesive and sealant products react with nitrogen oxides in the air in the presence of sunlight to form the ozone and subsequently pose 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."  EPA also includes a list of dozens of exceptions for compounds "determined to have negligible photochemical reactivity.”

Nationally, the EPA finalized a rule mandating VOC limits for a wide range of consumer products to include 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 the 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. 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 has taken 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.  California's Air Resources Board (CARB) has mandated limits on VOCs for a variety of consumer products used around the house to include adhesives and sealants.  Retailers and distributors who sell to the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) market are required to follow CARB's regulations, which can be found by clicking on the state of California on the map below.

Other states, predominantly in the New England, the Middle Atlantic, and the Great Lakes regions, have developed their own rules for both industrial applications and consumer products. These various regulation are all primarily based on the rules developed in California.  For specific state information, please click on the state below.