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California Adopts New VOC Limits for Multi-Purpose Solvents, Paint Thinners and Air Fresheners

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., September 30, 2009

On September 24, 2009, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted amendments to the California Consumer Products Regulations.  The new provisions will limit volatile organic compound (VOC) content to 30 percent by weight in paint thinners and multipurpose solvents effective December 31, 2010, and will lower this limit to 3 percent effective December 31, 2013.  Existing VOC limits for double phase aerosol air fresheners will be reduced from 25 percent by weight to 20 percent, effective December 31, 2012.  The amendments also prohibit the use of certain toxic air contaminants (TACs) and high global warming potential (GWP) compounds in formulations for these products.  See below for a detailed summary of the now adopted regulations.  CARB expects to publish an official version of the new regulations on their website within a few weeks.

California Air Resources Board Proposes New VOC Limits for Multi-Purpose Solvents, Paint Thinners and Air Fresheners
(Article originally published August 14, 2009 by Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.)

On August 7, 2009, CARB released proposed amendments to the California Consumer Products Regulations[1] and its Initial Statement of Reasons for the rulemaking.  The proposed amendments would set new limits for VOCs in paint thinners and multi-purpose solvents; create certain labeling and reporting requirements for paint thinners and multi-purpose solvents; lower the existing VOC limits for double phase aerosol air fresheners; and prohibit the use of high GWP compounds and certain TACs. 

Proposed VOC and TAC Restrictions for Paint Thinners and Multi-Purpose Solvents

The proposed amendments include new VOC limits for paint thinners and multi-purpose solvents.  Under the proposed amendments, a 30% by weight VOC limit would become effective December 31, 2010, with a lower, 3% limit to take effect on December 31, 2013.  The proposed amendments would also prohibit, effective December 31, 2010, the sale, supply, offer for sale, or manufacture for use in California of any paint thinner or multi-purpose solvent that contains: (a) chemical compounds that have a GWP value of 150 or greater; (b) methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, or trichloroethylene (hereinafter referred to as “specified TACs”); or (c) greater than 1% “aromatic compounds” by weight.[2]

The proposed amendments applicable to paint thinners and multi-purpose solvents include a three-year sell-through provision (which would allow manufacturers, retailers, and distributors a grace period to sell products manufactured before the effective date of the regulation if certain labeling and purchaser notification requirements are met).  Certain exemptions and exclusions from the proposed paint thinner and multi-purpose solvent restrictions may apply.  For example, under proposed section 94509(u)(4), high GWP compounds would not be prohibited if they were present as impurities in a combined amount equal to or less than 0.1% by weight, and the specified TACs would not be prohibited if they were present as impurities in a combined amount equal to or less than 0.01% by weight.

Proposed Labeling and Reporting Requirements for Paint Thinners and Multi-Purpose Solvents

For each paint thinner and multi-purpose solvent sold or offered for sale in areas of California outside the South Coast Air Quality Management District (and manufactured after the applicable December 31, 2010 or 2013 effective date), the manufacturer and responsible party must clearly display the VOC content in percent by weight on the outside of the product container/packaging.  The proposed amendments would also prohibit, effective December 31, 2010 until December 31, 2015, the sale, supply, offer for sale, or manufacture for use in California of any “Flammable” or “Extremely Flammable” (as defined) paint thinner, multi-purpose solvent, clean-up solvent, or paint clean-up product unless the products were labeled according to specific guidelines.  See Proposed Amendments section 94512(e)(2)(B).

In addition, the proposed amendments would require all responsible parties for paint thinners and multi-purpose solvents to report to CARB information on California product sales and composition information for the year 2011 and to provide a written update regarding their research and development efforts undertaken to achieve the 3% VOC limit slated to take effect for these products December 31, 2013.

Proposed Exclusions from Paint Thinner Definition and Temporary Exemption for Small Containers

It is worth noting that the definition of “paint thinner” does not include thinners labeled for the thinning of “industrial maintenance coatings,” “zinc-rich primers,” or “high-temperature coatings” (as defined), nor does it include “artist’s solvent/thinner” in containers of thirty two fluid ounces or less.  The proposed amendments would also provide a temporary exemption (December 31, 2010 through December 31, 2013) from the paint thinner VOC limits and aromatic compound prohibition for paint thinners sold in containers of eight fluid ounces or less.

Proposed Reduction of Existing VOC Limits for Double Phase Aerosol Air Fresheners

Under the proposed amendments, the current 25% VOC limit applicable to double phase aerosol air fresheners would be lowered to 20% effective December 31, 2012.  The proposed amendments would also prohibit the sale, supply, offer for sale, or manufacture for use in California of double phase aerosol air fresheners that contain any high GWP chemical compound.  Similar to the amendments applicable to paint thinners and multi-purpose solvents, a three-year sell-through provision would apply and the GWP prohibition would not apply to any chemical compound present as an impurity in a combined amount equal to or less than 0.1% by weight.

Proposed Amendments Related to Method 310

Finally, the proposed amendments specify that the analytical method to be used to determine VOC, GWP, and aromatic compound content of paint thinners and multi-purpose solvents is Method 310.  The proposed amendments would also include new VOC content calculations for consumer products with high water content or low VOC content.  These amendments include specific VOC content calculations.

Contacts

For additional information or guidance regarding the CARB Consumer Products Regulations, please contact Laura Duncan (lduncan@bdlaw.com) or Amy Lincoln (alincoln@bdlaw.com).


[1] “Consumer product” for the purposes of these regulations, means a chemically formulated product used by household and institutional consumers, including, but not limited to detergents, cleaning compounds, polishes, floor finishes, cosmetics, personal care products, home, lawn and garden products, disinfectants, sanitizers, aerosol paints and adhesives and automotive specialty products; but does not include other paint products, furniture coatings, or architectural coatings.  Note that “consumer” includes any person who seeks, purchases or acquires a consumer product, for personal, family, household or institutional use.  However, persons acquiring a consumer product for resale are not “consumers” of that product.

[2] “Aromatic compound” means a VOC that contains one or more benzene or equivalent heterocyclic rings.  At the August 4, 2009 CARB Public Workshop on the proposed amendments, industry representatives expressed resistance to the weight based (rather than reactivity based) limits proposed for aromatic compounds, citing the lack of flexibility for reformulation created by this approach.