Architectural Coatings

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Publication of the Regulations

Environment Canada published the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Architectural Coatings Regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II on September 30, 2009.

What Are Architectural Coatings?

Architectural coatings are products such as paints, stains, varnishes, lacquers and other types of coatings applied to traffic surfaces or to a wide variety of stationary structures in residential, commercial, institutional and industrial settings.

The Canadian architectural coatings industry produces coatings for three main segments:

  • General architectural coatings: coatings sold to painting contractors and to the general public through retail outlets.
  • Industrial maintenance coatings: high-performance architectural coatings for industrial or professional application to surfaces exposed to extreme conditions.
  • Traffic marking coatings: used for marking traffic surfaces such as streets and highways, parking lots, airport runways.

Please note Environment Canada is proposing to address  VOC emissions from aerosol coatings separately.  Please visit the "Aerosol Coatings" section for more details.

What Is the Purpose of these Regulations?

The objective of the Regulations is to protect the environment and health of Canadians from the effects of air pollution by reducing VOC emissions. VOCs constitute one of the main ingredients in the formation of ground-level ozone, which contributes to the formation of smog. Consumer and commercial use of architectural coatings result in the emission of VOCs by evaporation during the drying process, following application of the coating to a surface.

What Are the Key Elements of these Regulations?

The Regulations set mandatory VOC concentration limits for 53 categories of architectural coatings, including traffic marking coatings. Concentration limits vary between 100 g/L–800 g/L depending on the category and are set out in the Schedules of the Regulations.

The traffic marking coating category is the only one subject to an annual use prohibition during the period of May 1 to October 15. During this period, a person must not use traffic marking coatings in which the VOC concentration exceeds 150 g/L. For the remainder of the year, traffic marking coatings have a VOC concentration limit of 450 g/L for use, manufacture, import, sale and offer for sale.

How Do these Regulations Affect Canadian Businesses?

The Regulations apply to the manufacturers, importers and sellers of architectural coatings, as well as to the users of traffic marking coatings.

The Regulations include provisions defining methods for the determination of VOC concentrations and other test methods, labelling requirements and record keeping. 

Moreover, a Guidance Document on the Analytical Methods for Determining Volatile Organic Compound Concentration and Other Parameters for the VOC Regulations was developed to inform the regulated community of the analytical methods that will be used by Environment Canada to verify regulatory compliance.

What Is the Timeline for Implementation?

The Regulations came into force on September 9, 2009.

Prohibitions applicable to manufacture, import, sale, offer for sale and use* of the 53 categories of architectural coatings come into effect according to the schedule in the table below:

Date When the Prohibition Takes Effect
Number of CategoriesManufacture/ImportSale and Offer for SaleUse
45September 9, 2010September 10, 2012N/A
6September 9, 2012September 10, 2014N/A
1 ("recycled coating")September 9, 2014September 10, 2016N/A
1 ("TM coating")September 9, 2010September 10, 2012September 10, 2012Footnote1


"TM coating" is subject to the annual seasonal use prohibition.

Return to footnote1

How Do these Canadian Regulations Compare to those of Other Jurisdictions?

The Regulations are based on similar requirements in other jurisdictions, such as the member states of the Ozone Transport Commission, who regulate the Northeastern United States.

How Do I Submit a Permit Application?

If you need to apply for a permit to manufacture or import an architectural coating set out in the Schedule of the Regulations, in which the VOC concentration exceeds the limits set out in the same Schedule, please submit your application to the Products Division, Environment Canada. 

Fact Sheets

How Can I Stay Informed?

To receive the latest information about Environment Canada’s efforts on VOC emissions from architectural coatings, please subscribe to our mailing list.

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Contact Information

Questions and inquiries can be directed to Environment Canada:

Telephone: 888-391-3426 or 819-938-4483
Fax: 888-391-3695 or 819-938-4480

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