California banning high VOC products

In a first for the USA, the California Air Resources Board yesterday put in place regulations that will eliminate the generation of over 14 tons of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) a day by 2014. The new regulations apply to consumer products such as air fresheners, paints and solvents.

It seems that in California, these products generate up to 255 tons of VOCs daily. That’s a frightening amount. California certainly isn’t the only place in the world where these products are used; so on a global scale the daily generation of Volatile Organic Compounds must be truly staggering.

Volatile Organic compounds react with nitrous oxides to form ozone and ultimately, smog. High levels of ozone are also a threat to asthma sufferers, cause serious lung inflammation and decrease lung function according to the Board.

Consumers will pay a price for this move – around $1.50 extra per gallon of paint thinner. This seems like a small price to me. Price increases can be a pain and a hardship, but bearing in mind that it’s not just what’s in a product that counts, but the level of consumption; increased costs for a more earth friendly product is beneficial in that it can also get people to be a little more careful in how much they use.

The new regulations will also set a cap on some other chemicals are either greenhouse gases or interact with the atmosphere to become them, also generating up to 22 tons a day of smog forming compounds.

This isn’t a new push from California to reduce VOCs. The California Clean Air Act was adopted in 1988 and since that time ARB regulations have reduced these emissions by 44 percent, close to 200 tons each day, and have curbed toxic air contaminants by 13 tons daily.

Volatile Organic Compounds in products such as paint have other negative impacts on the environment; you can learn more about some of the issues in my article, Paint and the planet.