VOCs and Solvents

VOCs and Solvents

Some 'mainstream' paint brands advertise that they are VOC free, or have Zero VOCs.

This is a totally misleading claim. Firstly, to make this claim the paint must be free of all solvents, and secondly there is no equipment to measure an absence of VOCs. There is no equipment accurate enough to measure VOCs less than 1 gram per litre, so it is impossible to substantiate the claim that something which has a petrochemical base no longer has VOCs.

It seems these claims are based on compliency requirements for a low VOC content, perhaps that way they can justify making the VOC free claim with regard only to the solvents mentioned in the “National Pollutant Inventory”. If a solvent is not listed, or if it is exempted, it can be added to the product without counting as a VOC (even though it is a VOC or it is a known toxin).

To add to the problem, paints are assessed untinted, so tints or colourants are not included in the VOC measurement. Solvents in the tints/colourants can pollute a low VOC paint to that extend that it is not a low VOC product anymore.

The National Pollutant Inventory exempts some solvents from the VOC list. Some of the solvents exempted are: Acetone, Ammonia, PCBTF, Methyl Acetate, Methyline Chloride, and volatile methyl siloxanes to mention a few. A little research will show you that these are not products suitable for a healthy home.

To add to the problem for home owners, Low VOC coatings may contain Hazardous Air Pollutants(HAPs) and many Exempt VOCs are HAPs; however, some non exempt products such as propylene glycol are not HAPs.

According to the NPI, solvents with a vapour pressure lower than 0.27 kPA at 25”C or Boiling Point under 110C+ are not regarded as VOC.

These regulations show no concern for the toxicity of compounds.
Exempt products such as acetone and ammonia are very toxic but do not contribute to smog and are consequently used in low/zero VOC formulations of major manufacturers, safe from regulation and with no concern for users.  Many of solvent borne coatings suggest compliance but in reality contain exempt VOCs and HAPs.

Currently many green coatings comply with environmental legislation but pay lip-service to the environment, and to consumers.

We are looking here only at solvents. In many paint systems are other ingredients which can be harmful to the environment and consumers.

Bio’s Wall Paint and Bio’s Water Based Enamel are extremely low VOC products, meaning they do not register a VOC content when measured, which means their VOC content is less than 1 gram per Litre (0.1%).


https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2008C00620  National Environment Protection (National Pollutant Inventory) Measure 1998 - Authoritative Version - F2008C00620 In force - Latest Version (as displayed on their website Sept 2018)

http://www.npi.gov.au/  National Pollutant Inventory

https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/licensing-and-regulation/licensing/environment-protection-licences/national-pollutant-inventory  National Pollutant Inventory

http://www.environment.gov.au/news/2018/03/29/national-pollutant-inventory-npi-data-2016%E2%80%9317-now-available  National Pollutant Inventory (NPI)

https://data.gov.au/dataset/npi National Pollutant Inventory

http://www.nepc.gov.au/nepms/national-pollutant-inventory  National Environment Protection (National Pollutant Inventory) Measure