Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations
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Questions and Answers
Although care has been taken to ensure that this list of frequently asked questions accurately reflects the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) and the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations, the Act and the Regulations prevail over the text of this document in case of any discrepancies or inconsistencies. This document does not supersede or modify the Act or the Regulations and is only intended to be a quick reference guide to the main elements of the Regulations. It is ultimately the responsibility of regulatees to be familiar with the full text of the Regulations.
The objective of the Regulations is to protect the environment and health of Canadians from the effects of air pollution. The Regulations establish VOC concentration limits for 14 categories of automotive refinishing products for use in Canada. These products are required to meet the established concentration limits before they can be manufactured, imported, offered for sale or sold in Canada.
It is estimated that over 5 kilotonnes of VOCs are emitted each year from coatings and surface cleaners used in automotive refinishing operations in Canada. The Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations are expected to reduce the annual VOC emissions from these sources by approximately 40%.
The Regulations are aligned with limits set by the California Air Resources Board suggested control measure (CARB SCM) for automotive refinishing products. During regulatory development, it was determined that the greatest potential reduction in Canada would be achieved by establishing VOC concentration limits similar to the CARB SCM. Other jurisdictions in the United States, as well as the European Union, have either already established similar limits or are considering them. Therefore, aligning the Regulations will facilitate consistency across North America, provide a level playing field to manufacturers and importers of automotive refinishing products, and provide consistent treatment across jurisdictions.
Questions and inquiries regarding the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations can be directed to Environment Canada:
Fax: 1-888-391-3695 or 819-953-3132
For additional information, visit: www.ec.gc.ca/cov-voc
Table of Contents
- Section 1: Interpretation
- Section 2: Application
- Section 3: Prohibitions
- Section 4: Permits
- Section 5: Determination of VOC Concentration
- Section 6: Accredited Laboratory
- Section 7: Labelling
- Section 8: Record-Keeping
- Section 9: Coming into Force
- General Questions
- Question 1: Vehicle Manufacturing Process
- Question 2: Safety and Toxicity of Low-VOC Products
- Question 3: Reformulation of Solvent-based Products
- Question 4: Cost Implications
- Question 5: Canada Small Business Financing Program
- Question 6: Training on Low-VOC Products
- Question 7: Demonstrating Compliance
- Question 8: Environment Canada Contact Information
- Annex 1: List of Product Categories and VOC Concentration Limits
List of Frequently Asked Questions
The following questions and answers are ordered by the sections in the Regulations. Each question below only addresses a specific issue or requirement in the Regulations. Regulatees must comply with all applicable requirements in the Regulations.
Section 1: Interpretation
Question 1.1: Definition of VOCs
Q: What are VOCs?
A: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are air pollutants that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and particulate matter, the main ingredients in smog. Recent studies confirm the environmental and human health impacts of smog and show that air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease. The legal definition of the term “volatile organic compounds” under item 65 in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 can be consulted at the following website: www.ec.gc.ca/lcpe-cepa/default.asp?lang=En&n=0DA2924D-1&wsdoc=4ABEFFC8-5BEC-B57A-F4BF-11069545E434.
Question 1.2: Automotive Refinishing Products
Q: What are automotive refinishing products?
A: Automotive refinishing products are coatings and surface cleaners that are applied to motor vehicles and mobile equipment (cars, motorcycles, trucks, truck trailers, street cleaners, farm equipment, etc.) to refinish the surface or to prepare the surface for a coating. The use of automotive refinishing products results in the emission of VOCs following application of the products to a surface.
Section 2: Application
Question 2.1: Excluded Products
Q: What products are excluded from the Regulations?
A: The Regulations do not apply to products that are:
- manufactured, imported or sold for the purposes of export;
- used for application in a factory or a shop for purposes other than automotive refinishing, on products other than motor vehicles, mobile equipment or their parts;
- in a non-refillable aerosol spray container or manufactured or imported to be packaged in that type of container;
- in a container with a capacity of 14.8 mL (0.5 fl oz) or less or manufactured or imported to be packaged in that size of container;
- applied to motor vehicles or mobile equipment, or their parts, during manufacture;
- used as a solvent in a laboratory for analysis;
- used in scientific research;
- used as a laboratory sample or analytical standard;
- for use in chemical agent resistant coatings for motor vehicles, mobile equipment or their parts, for use in a military operation; or
- in a container with a capacity of 118.3 mL (4.0 fl oz) or less or manufactured or imported to be packaged in that size of container, for use in automobile mobile restoration services.
Question 2.2: Cleaners Used to Rinse Spray Guns
Q: If I use a cleaner to rinse spray guns after spraying refinish coatings, is it exempted from the Regulations?
A: In the definition section of the Regulations, “surface cleaner” is defined as a “product used to prepare the surface of motor vehicles or mobile equipment by removing unwanted matter from the surface before applying a coating. It excludes products used for cleaning automotive refinishing equipment and hand-held spray bottle spot cleaners used to prepare surfaces prior to sanding.” Any other cleaner, for instance one only to be used for cleaning automotive refinishing equipment, is not subject to the Regulations.
Question 2.3: Lacquers Used for Restoring Antique Vehicles
Q: Is the lacquer to be used for the restoration of antique vehicles exempted from the Regulations?
A: The products used in carrying out metal plating and lacquer topcoats and any oil-based enamel paints used for the restoration of motor vehicles or mobile equipment made on or before 1985 and their parts are not subject to the Regulations.
Question 2.4: Spray Bombs
Q: Our company currently imports several products containing VOC levels above the regulatory limits in order to make “spray bombs” for sale to the public. Is this activity still allowed under the Regulations?
A: The Regulations do not apply to automotive refinishing products that are “imported, offered for sale or sold in a non-refillable aerosol spray container or manufactured or imported to be packaged in that type of container”. With regards to specific products with VOC levels in excess of the regulatory limits, if they are being manufactured or imported to be packaged in these non-refillable aerosol containers, they are not covered by the Regulations.
Question 2.5: Responsibility as a Seller
Q: What is our responsibility as a seller of automotive refinishing products to ensure they are going to be applied in the proper environment?
A: The users (customers) are not subject to the Regulations. The regulated entities (manufacturers, importers and sellers) will have to make sure that the supply of their products is compliant with corresponding requirements in the Regulations and will also have to ensure that requirements of the Record Keeping provisions must be met (section 13 of the Regulations).
Section 3: Prohibitions
Question 3.1: Regulatory Requirements
Q: What are the main requirements of the Regulations?
A: The Regulations apply to the manufacture, import, offer for sale and sale of automotive refinishing products in Canada and set mandatory VOC concentration limits for 14 categories of these products. There are also requirements for product labelling and record-keeping by regulatees.
Question 3.2: VOC Concentration Limits
Q: What are the VOC concentration limits?
A: The 14 product categories, their definitions and the associated VOC concentration limits are listed in Annex 1 of this document.
Question 3.3: Product Corresponding to More than One Category
Q: Some of our coatings seem to fall into more than one of the established categories. Which VOC concentration limit applies?
A: In the case of a coating that may fall into one or more of the coating categories listed in the Regulations (see Annex 1), the lowest VOC concentration limit would apply.
Question 3.4: Use of Non-compliant Product
Q: As a collision repair shop worker, can I still use any remaining product I have in my shop after the Regulations come into force?
A: The Regulations do not prohibit the use of non-compliant product.
Section 4: Permits
Question 4.1: Provision for Permit Application
Q: When do I need a permit to manufacture or import a product?
A: The Regulations establish a licensing regime for products that would not otherwise be able to meet the regulatory requirements for technical or economic reasons. The permits will be issued to automotive refinishing product manufacturers and importers to allow them to continue manufacturing or importing these products provided the conditions of issuance outlined in the Regulations are met.
Question 4.2: Permit Application
Q: How do I apply for a permit? What information needs to be provided?
A: Permit applications are to be submitted to the Minister of Environment (see Question 8: Environment Canada Contact Information) and may be granted provided that the applicant:
- provides evidence to show that it is not technically or economically feasible at the time of the application to reduce the concentration of VOCs in the products as given in the Regulations;
- prepares a plan identifying the measures that will be taken to ensure that these products will meet the VOC concentration limits; and
- specifies the period within which the above-mentioned plan will be fully implemented, which shall not exceed four years from the date the original permit is issued.
The information to be provided in the permit application is outlined in section 4 of the Regulations. The permit will be valid for a period of two years from the date it is issued, and can be extended once for an additional two years provided the application is submitted within the period of 30 days prior to the expiry of the first period. The conditions under which a permit renewal may be granted are the same as those for the original permit. After a permit expires, the sale and offer for sale of the product will have a sell-through period, under subsection 3(2)(b) of the Regulations.
It is highly recommended that a discussion regarding the permitting option take place prior to submitting an application.
Section 5: Determination of VOC Concentration
Question 5.1: Excluded Compounds
Q: What is meant by “excluded compounds” in the calculation of the VOC content of automotive refinishing product? Has the Government of Canada published a list of those materials that they consider would comply with this definition?
A: See the legal definition of the term “volatile organic compounds” under item 65 in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. This definition provides the list of excluded compounds.
The definition for the term “excluded compounds” set out in the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations provides an additional excluded compound:
“excluded compounds” means the compounds that are excluded under item 65 of Schedule 1 to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 as well as acetic acid, 1,1-dimethylethyl ester (C6H12O2)1.
Question 5.2: TBAc
Q: Why is the compound TBAc excluded from the Regulations?
A: Tertiary butyl actetate (TBAc), also known as acetic acid, 1,1-dimethylethyl ester, was excluded from the definition of VOCs under the Regulations because it was determined that this compound has negligible reactivity and would not contribute in a meaningful way to the formation of ground-level ozone and particulate matter. This exemption allows manufacturers to use TBAc as a non-VOC substance when formulating certain types of products in order to comply with the VOC concentration limits.
Please note that TBAc is still considered a VOC under Schedule 1 of CEPA 1999.
Section 6: Accredited Laboratory
Question 6.1: Using Accredited Laboratories
Q: Are manufacturers/importers/sellers obligated to use accredited laboratories for testing automotive refinishing products?
A: There is no mandatory testing required by the industry. However, only accredited laboratories can be used for the purposes of the Regulations.
Section 7: Labelling
Question 7.1: Labelling Requirements
Q: What information is required on the automotive refinishing product container/label?
A: The container must include the date on which the product was manufactured or a code representing the date. If a code is used, the manufacturer or importer must provide the Minister, on request, with an explanation of the code. In addition, the product label or the accompanying documentation must specify instructions, in both official languages, for dilution (if the product requires dilution before its use) and for combination (if a multiple component product requires that components be combined before its use).
Section 8: Record-Keeping
Question 8.1: Maintaining Records
Q: What types of records need to be maintained?
A: The record-keeping requirements for manufacturers, importers and sellers are listed in section 13 of the Regulations. These requirements are similar to those that already exist under other regulations.
Question 8.2: Record-keeping at Collision Repair Shops
Q: The Regulations have record-keeping requirements for sellers, manufacturers and importers. Are there any requirements for record-keeping at collision repair shops?
A: No, there are no record-keeping requirements under the Regulations related solely to the use of these products during collision repair activities. However, if a shop is selling or importing products in addition to performing collision repair work, they would fall subject to the Regulations and need to maintain the specific records outlined in section 13.
Section 9: Coming into Force
Question 9.1: Coming into Force Dates
Q: When do the Regulations come into force?
A: The manufacture and import prohibitions of products that exceed the VOC concentration limits came into force on June 19, 2010, while the sale and offer for sale prohibitions came into force on December 19, 2010.
Question 9.2: Different Date Provided by Supplier or Manufacturer
Q: Why is the date given by my supplier/manufacturer different from the date in the Regulations?
A: The coming into force dates of the Regulations are the absolute deadlines for the manufacture, import and sale of products in Canada exceeding the established VOC limits. However, companies may choose to set earlier dates to phase out the manufacture, import and sale of these products as an individual business decision.
Question 1: Vehicle Manufacturing Process
Q: Why did the government not also regulate paints and coatings used during the vehicle manufacturing process?
A: Measures are under consideration to address reduction of VOC emissions from this sector.
Question 2: Safety and Toxicity of Low-VOC Products
Q: Are the low-VOC products safer and less toxic than their high-VOC counterparts?
A: The VOC concentration in products is regulated because these substances contribute to the formation of smog, an ambient air quality issue with harmful impacts on both human health and the environment.
Concerning indoor air quality issues, these are not only related to VOC emissions since several other ingredients justify usage and handling precautions that are recommended by the manufacturer or supplier. Since there are so many product uses, ingredients and formulations, it cannot be asserted altogether that low-VOC products have lesser indoor air quality impacts than high-VOC versions. Strictly regarding VOCs however, as their concentration in the coating applied decreases, it can reasonably be expected that the VOC concentration in indoor air will remain lower during surface preparation and coating preparation.
Question 3: Reformulation of Solvent-based Products
Q: Could the manufacturers not have simply reformulated the solvent-based products to meet the lower VOC limits, instead of changing to water-based products?
A: The Regulations do not require a switch to water-based products. They simply set the VOC concentration limits for the 14 categories of products. That being said, most manufacturers have chosen to meet these limits by making their product lines water-based.
Question 4: Cost Implications
Q: Are there increased costs for these low-VOC products?
A: As part of the regulatory development process, an economic analysis was performed on the possible cost implications to the industry. Automotive repair shops will incur the majority of the incremental costs resulting from the Regulations. The costs of the Regulations are expected to range from 1% to 2.5% of industry revenue while repair shops absorb the one-time costs of compliance, and less than 1% of revenue thereafter. The impact of the Regulations on large multinational companies is expected to be negligible as these companies already produce compliant automotive refinishing products for the European Union and United States markets. The impact on consumers would be determined by the ability of the automotive repair shops to pass on the incremental costs to consumers through higher prices. It is unlikely that there would be a significant increase in repair costs.
Question 5: Canada Small Business Financing Program
Q: Are there government programs to assist small businesses (i.e. small-sized automotive repair shops) with their financing needs?
A: Through the Canada Small Business Financing Program, the Government of Canada makes it easier for small businesses to access loans from financial institutions by sharing the risk with lenders. Loans can be used to finance up to 90% of the cost of:
- purchasing or improving land, real property or immovables;
- purchasing leasehold improvements or improving leased property;
- purchasing or improving new or used equipment.
For more information about the program, visit www.ic.gc.ca/csbfa.
Question 6: Training on Low-VOC Products
Q: Where can I access training on how to use these new low-VOC products?
A: Many manufacturers and suppliers are offering clients training on the use of their low-VOC product lines. In addition, industry training sessions such as I-CAR also take place in various locations across the country. Some provinces also offer apprenticeship training courses at local community colleges that cover the new waterborne technology. Interested persons are encouraged to contact their local industry associations or product suppliers for details on these and other training opportunities.
Question 7: Demonstrating Compliance
Q: What do I need to show an Environment Canada enforcement officer to demonstrate that I am in compliance with the Regulations?
A: Environment Canada officers are enforcing the Regulations in accordance with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Please note that it is, ultimately, the responsibility of regulatees to ensure compliance with the Regulations.
Question 8: Environment Canada Contact Information
Q: How do I stay informed?
A: For more information on the Regulations, you can visit the following website: www.ec.gc.ca/cov-voc. Questions and inquiries can also be directed to Environment Canada:
Fax: 1-888-391-3695 or 819-953-3132
200 Sacre Coeur Boulevard, 3rd Floor
Annex 1: List of Product Categories and VOC Concentration Limits
VOC Concentration Limit
(grams per litre)
A coating formulated to be applied for corrosion resistance, adhesion of subsequent coatings or to fill in surface imperfections. Adhesion promoters are not included in this category.
A coating formulated to be applied before the application of another coating for the purpose of colour uniformity or to prevent a subsequent coating from penetrating underlying coatings.
Pre-treatment wash primer
A coating that contains a minimum of 0.5% acid by weight and not more than 16% solids by weight that is formulated to be applied directly to bare metal surfaces to provide corrosion resistance and to facilitate adhesion of subsequent coatings.
A coating formulated to be applied to uncoated plastic surfaces to facilitate adhesion of subsequent coatings.
A pigmented coating formulated to be applied to a primer or an adhesion promoter that requires a subsequent clear coating. This category includes metallic or iridescent colour coatings.
Uniform finish coating
A coating formulated to be applied to an area of repair for the purpose of blending it to match the finish of the rest of the surface.
Truck-bed liner coating
A coating that protects a truck bed from surface abrasion. Colour coatings, multicolour coatings and single-stage coatings are excluded.
Temporary protective coating
A coating that temporarily protects certain areas from overspray or mechanical damage.
A coating formulated to be applied to the wheel wells, the inside of door panels or fenders, the underside of a trunk or hood, or the underside of a motor vehicle.
A pigmented coating formulated to be applied without a subsequent clear coat. Single-stage coatings include single-stage metallic or iridescent coatings.
A coating that exhibits more than one colour in the dried coat after a single application, hides surface defects and is formulated to be applied over a primer or adhesion promoter. This category includes metallic or iridescent multicolour coatings.
A coating that contains no pigments and is formulated to be applied over any other coating.
All other coatings not described in the schedule. Coatings are defined as any product that forms a film when applied to a surface for protective or any other automotive refinishing purpose.
A product used to prepare the surface of motor vehicles or mobile equipment by removing unwanted matter from the surface before applying a coating. It excludes products used for cleaning automotive refinishing equipment and hand-held spray bottle spot cleaners used to prepare surfaces prior to sanding.
1 Acetic acid, 1,1-dimethylethyl ester is also known as tertiary-butyl acetate or TBAc.
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