Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are potentially harmful chemicals that go into the production of various products or articles. The range of products that contain VOCs is very rich, and can include products such as paints, cleaning products, boutique products, adhesives, and much more.

So, the questions that prevail are What are Volatile Organic Compounds? Why do they matter? What statutory compliances and regulations are effective on them? Let’s take a deeper dive into the fascinating world of VOCs.

What are Volatile Organic Compounds?

VOCs are potentially harmful chemicals that generally have a high vapour pressure at the normal room temperature (20-22°C or 68-72°F). This is a direct result of these chemicals having a low boiling point. Let’s take an example of why these chemicals should be handled carefully. You have an open container of cleaning chemicals in a room. The VOC’s molecules in the cleaning product will start to evaporate upon reaching their boiling point, which leads to them escaping in our general surroundings very quickly. Hence, these molecules are often deemed omnipresent. Some of the examples VOCs are benzene, butanol, acetone, and toluene. To know more about the complete Volatile Organic Compound list, you can click here.

Importance of statutory compliances and regulations on VOCs

Now that we know what are volatile organic compounds, let’s understand their importance. VOCs are harmful to nature, if left unregulated. A plethora of research studies have identified that unadulterated use of VOCs can potentially cause large scale adversities such as acid rains, smog-related pollution, hail, acidic dust, and much more. On a smaller scale, VOCs can cause humans exposed to experience headaches, dizziness, irritation in the eye, and in extreme cases, even memory loss or lung problems.

Keeping all of the aforementioned risks VOCs pose, statutory bodies have stringently identified that VOCs pose a real threat to the health of humans, animals, and the environment. Hence, strict regulations have been imposed by the statutory bodies to monitor the usage of VOCs by companies. The governing bodies have levied millions of dollars worth of fines on companies that have failed to meet these regulations or violated them with the distribution or supply of VOCs or products containing VOCs.

How are VOCs Measured?

VOCs are measured in the units of gram/litre, pound/gallon, or percentage in the products they’re being used in. The manufacturers have to fill this information in exact amounts on the Safety Data Sheets and provide them to the concerned governing bodies to be able to gain eligibility of distribution. This is the only way the Volatile Organic Compound analysis is conducted by companies and regulatory bodies.

VOC Regulations in the USA

Countries all across the globe have taken the necessary steps to ensure that VOC emissions are promptly kept in check. In particular, USA has adopted and implemented ironclad laws on the mitigation of VOC levels. These regulations were laid out by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). These regulations are applied at different levels of governance, which are:

●  Federal level (which is monitored directly by the US EPA)

●  State Level

●  District Level

●  County Level

For instance, the state of California practices the strictest implementation of the regulations for VOCs. The regulator for California state is CARB. The state is divided into 35 separate regions referred to as Air Districts which would constitute several counties. Each air district implements its own regulations while air-districts without any separate regulation would follow state guidelines.

Let’s take a use case for example. An engine degreaser (aerosol) containing concentrations of VOCs over 10% would directly violate California’s code of regulations and is hence, non-saleable.

Taking inspiration from California’s implementation of regulations over VOCs, many other states in the US have also started enforcing VOC regulations on all levels. The states have properly implemented a set answer to the question of what are Volatile Organic Compounds, and implemented the regulations on any products or articles that fall within the proximity to the answer.

How are Companies Affected by VOC Regulations?

The most central role of VOC regulation is that companies or ventures cannot sell their products in a region where their products violate the region’s defined VOC limits. Hence, companies often face a lot of trouble in complying with the VOC regulations. Companies have to identify the compounds they’re using via the Volatile Organic Compounds list generated by the EPA, to identify any substances that fall within the category. Here are some of the primary reasons for the same:

1  Multi-tier regulation with different regulatory bodies applying different thresholds for VOC limits in the products

If the VOC limit for a product containing phenol is 25% in the state of California and 50% in the state of Maryland, companies will face difficulty in the distribution in California if their product has a VOC concentration of 30%. This significantly limits their reach in distribution to major market spaces.

2  The unique and distinct way of categorizing and labelling the VOC carrying products, which include Adhesive & Sealants, Consumer Products, Metal parts & coatings, etc

Different categories of products are applicable to different subsets of regulations. For example, the product category “Repair Coating” is used in some of the US states, and the same category is termed “Touch-up and Repair Coating” in the other states. Both of these categories are applicable to the same group of end products as per the product category’s definition. Hence, companies need to identify their product category in order to precisely asses which regulations will be applied to them. need to identify which category their products fall into and which regulation applies to them.

3  Applicability of regulations on all strata – Manufacturers, Distributors, and Retailers

One aspect of the VOC regulations that creates a hurdle for companies in terms of carrying out operations is that the regulations are not exclusive to manufacturers or distributors or retailers. Each domain has to follow the regulations.

Retailers are mandated to be knowledgeable about the products they sell and if they are compliant with the regulations of the region they’re selling the products in. They have to be very careful about the area or zip code they’re conducting business in, and have to comprehensively assess if their products follow the laws and regulations of the said region.

To understand the complexity, let’s take another example. The “Air Districts” in the US are divided on a geographical basis, which means that a single state might have more than one set of rules for VOC containing products. For example, people living in western Kern would have to follow the San Joaquin Valley district’s air pollution control rule whereas people in the east follow Eastern Kern APCD’s rule. This precarious situation is a major hurdle for many companies, and many times gets them into some trouble if not navigated through with meticulous care and concern.


The concern of environmental protection has become very prevalent since the past decade. Any means of sustainable living, recycling, and environment friendliness are increasingly implemented by organizations and driving decision making from the higher-ups in the board meetings. The global regulations for VOCs have been evolving rapidly to ensure environmental safety, and companies often have a hard time keeping up with these regulations and adapt to them in order to thrive and grow in today’s economy.

Hence, the need for experts in the domain to assist companies has shown an exponential surge. APA Engineering specializes in providing expert analytics solutions and valuable insights to companies pertaining to global VOC regulations. With in-house tools and databases designed to store gargantuan volumes of data and track updates and reforms on these regulations, APA Engineering efficiently helps companies in following the regulations. Providing detailed information on all the geographical restrictions that will apply to your products and why, APA Engineering provides optimum consultation to companies so they don’t miss out on a single law and prevail in their business. For more information, you can contact us here.



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