Odorless Paints, Low-VOC
New regulations that curb volatile organic compound emissions in several Northeast states are making paint manufacturers work harder to breathe easier.
by John Strieder
volatile organic compound emissions in several Northeast states are making paint manufacturers work harder to breathe easier.
Lower VOC limits for architectural and industrial maintenance coatings became enforceable on the “compliance date” of Jan. 1, 2005, in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and four counties in northeast Virginia.
Adopted state by state, the regulations were based on a “model rule” issued in 2001 by the Ozone Transport Commission, a board that advises the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The OTC rule was modeled after California Air Resources Board regulations, and in a few spots, older regulations in Northeast states.
Not surprisingly, the new limits have forced the re-engineering or elimination of all kinds of solvent-based coatings. “Alkyds are virtually gone,” says Bob Nelson, senior director of environmental affairs for the National Paint & Coatings Association. “Traditional house paint is going to take a beating.”
Some replacement products, such as in super high-gloss trim paints, do not offer the same durability and performance as their alkyd predecessors, Nelson says. “It’s not a look people are used to.”
But Frank Magdits, commercial and industrial maintenance product manager for Benjamin Moore Co., sees the regulatory elimination of oil-based products as part of a sea change in the industry. “The whole trend is going toward water-borne technology anyway,” he says.
Benjamin Moore did some reformulation to bring products that were just over the new limits into compliance, he says. Other products, such as Benjamin Moore’s alkyd Satin Impervo, proved to be more problematic. Satin Impervo is highly regarded by paint contractors, and its reputation is based on its unique formula of oils and alkyds, Magdits says. “We have a strong following for it, especially in the Northeast region.”
Benjamin Moore launched a water-borne version of Satin Impervo in 2003. As a new formula, it has to develop its own reputation. That’s part of the paint business these days, Magdits says. “You can just see the handwriting on the wall. A product like alkyd Satin Impervo will eventually ride off into the sunset.”
Water-based paints do have advantages over oil-based products, he adds. They don’t yellow as much or give off any odor.
Ron Boyajian, product marketing manager for Massachusetts-based California Paints, says his company, which does most of its business in the Northeast, was “probably the first paint company in the industry to actively reformulate.” The new regulations have been coming for a long time, he says. “A lot of companies just ignored and ignored and ignored it. Now at the last minute they’re scrambling.”
California’s latex paints required minor tweaking, while solvent-based products proved more of a challenge. But solvent-borne products make up only about a tenth of the company’s total sales volume. Overall, the manufacturer is dropping far fewer offerings than most of its competition, Boyajian says.
Changes for some of California Paints’ coatings included raising levels of solids. The replacement coatings may be more temperature-sensitive in terms of dry time, but they may also hide better because of the extra solids, he says.
Dan Greenwell, product development manager for Duron Inc., says his company has taken a positive approach. “We’re taking the opportunity, since we’re changing the product anyway, to change it for the better.”
For example, Greenwell says, latex enamels do not historically offer good block resistance. They soften and get sticky in heat or humidity, and objects will adhere to them.
Since Duron is being forced to replace its latex enamel anyway, the company has created a replacement that offers improved block resistance as well as lower VOC emissions, Greenwell says. Duron’s reconfigured flats boast sheen uniformity, lower odor and VOC limit compliance, among other improvements.