Volatile organic compounds and aerosol coatings

What Are Aerosol Coatings?

Aerosol coatings are paints formulated for spraying from hand-held pressurized cans. The unique capacity of aerosol coatings to cover hard-to-reach or irregular surfaces, coupled with their convenient portability and long shelf life, make them a user-friendly and hard-to-replace product. Aerosol coatings include all coatings that are specially formulated and packaged for use in pressurized cans. They are used by both professional and do-it-yourself (DIY) consumers. The DIY segment accounts for approximately 80% of all sales in 2006, in USFootnote1.  The remainder of aerosol coatings is sold for industrial maintenance and original equipment manufacturer use. Aerosol coatings are used for a number of applications, including small domestic coating jobs, parking lots, athletic fields and construction sites marking, and touch-up of marks and scratches in paintwork of automobiles, appliances and machinery. Additional applications include arts and crafts. The use of aerosol coating products also results in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions from the propellants and solvents contained in them. Once airborne, VOCs, in the presence of sunlight, react with nitrogen oxides to form ozone. When aerosol coatings are used outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, the VOCs have a direct route to ambient air after they have vaporized. The solvents used in aerosol coatings evaporate during the application and drying processes of the paint. Typically, a solvent-blend of fast-evaporating and slow-to-medium-evaporating solvents is used in the formulation to provide the correct drying time for the paint film. The evaporation of the solvents takes place in two stages, with the initial loss of solvent (up to 80%) being dependent on the vapor pressure of the fast-evaporating solvent. After the initial loss of solvent, the polymer film is formed. The remaining solvent loss is caused by a slower diffusion-controlled process. The non-volatile portion of the coating remains in the cured coating film and, under normal use conditions, is not emitted to the atmosphere.

Environment Canada also addresses the VOC emissions for architectural and automotive refinishing coatings that are not in pressurized containers in their "Architectural Coatings" and "Automotive Refinishing Products" regulations.

Estimates of VOC Emissions from Aerosol Coatings

Based on a study conducted for Environment Canada in 2010, aerosol coating manufacturers sold 7043 tonnes of aerosol coatings in the Canada marketplace in 2008.   This meant VOC emissions from the aerosol coatings sector were estimated to be approximately 3821 tonnes in 2008. A total of 3208 unique aerosol coating products were identified. Of these products, 3107 were reported as being compliant with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) ozone reactivity limits (96.9% compliance rate), while 101 products were not compliant. Compliant products contained approximately a total of 3643 tonnes of VOCs while non-compliant products contained 178 tonnes of VOCs. It is expected that a total of 42 tonnes of equivalent annual VOC emissions reductions are achievable in Canada if products meet the reactivity limits of CARB and U.S. EPA.

Path Forward

Development of a Proposed Canadian Measure for Aerosol Coatings

Environment Canada is constantly monitoring actions taken by other jurisdictions and assessing the opportunity for potential VOC emission reductions.

Previous Consultation

On March 7, 2012, Environment Canada held a consultation meeting concerning the proposed approaches on VOC emission reductions in aerosol coatings in Canada. A Discussion Paper on the Volatile Organic Compounds in Aerosol Coatings: Considerations for the Development of a Control Instrument that outlines the background information and potential approaches was developed.

How Can I Stay Informed?

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

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
Email: ec.produits-products.ec@canada.ca

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