Over the past several decades, environmentalists and safety professionals have sought to reduce or eliminate products and coatings with high Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Everyone wants to be professionally and socially responsible, including Coatings For Industry, Inc., but we and most other manufacturers sell products with and without VOCs. There’s a reason for that.

What are “VOCs”?

VOCs are defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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.” There are exceptions of some chemicals that have negligible photochemical reactivity.

Some VOC compounds may have short- or long-term adverse health effects. All VOCs present the possibility of adversely affecting our atmosphere over time, this based on their reaction to sunlight.

It’s worth noting that there are a variety of definitions of VOC, and they are not consistent. For example, some products in Europe are not considered as contributing to VOC issues that are in North America, and vice versa.

What laws regulate VOCs?

There is quite a span of limits of allowed VOCs based on products and governmental authorities. VOC limits are federally regulated but some states impose stricter limitations.  Our home state of Pennsylvania is part of a Common Limitations Law that, in PA’s case, supports the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) that applies to several states.

Not surprisingly, California has among the most complex regulations, with six distinctly different regions. The state’s South Coast Air Quality Management District in the Los Angeles Basin has the most restrictive limits in the country. Rural areas of California have limitations, but they are not nearly as stringent.

VOCs in floor coatings

Looking at available floor coating chemistries, one can find almost any VOC level. That includes older generation products with varying levels of VOCs, and some of the newest technologies like polyaspartic coatings that have little or no VOCs. There are plenty of solvent-based products right alongside water-based products, each doing a specific job for a specific purpose.

Solvent-based floor coatings may prove desirable for several reasons. They can help reduce viscosity, can make blended components more compatible with each other, help the product flow better during application, and they can help reduce the effects of surface imperfections or contamination. 

However, many companies, including CFI, are putting a great deal of effort into technologies that contain less or no solvent. The trick is to decrease the solvent load while maintaining consistent performance both during and long after application.

For the foreseeable future, some product types will require solvents of the purpose, especially those required to work with badly contaminated floors. Formulating coatings that balance performance while contributing to a cleaner, healthier environment is one of the missions that keeps our lab technicians busy.

One big benefit of lower VOC coatings is they have less odor for application in inhabited areas. That’s good for everyone and creates a more pleasant space for work crews and other building occupants.

But when it comes to applying coatings on a floor, it’s all about the expected result, including long-term performance for the intended use, be it tow motors in a warehouse or foot traffic in a school. It’s also about environmental consciousness, and to that end CFI endeavors with each new product to deliver ideal technology that is both legally compliant and environmentally responsible.

For now, some of our coatings simply work better and for a much longer service life when products with modest solvents are specified.

Which coating is right for your floor?

Specifying the right coating for any job depends on a variety of factors, with VOC content being just one. If you need help determining which coating is right for your facility or application, contact our technical support group. They will give you suggestions for the right coating system, and possibly custom-formulate a system specifically for you.