Automotive refinishing products and volatile organic compounds

Publication of the Regulations

Environment Canada published the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on July 8, 2009.

What Are Automotive Refinishing Products?

Automotive refinishing coatings and surface cleaners are applied to motor vehicles and mobile equipment (including cars, motorcycles, trucks, truck trailers, street cleaners and farm equipment) to refinish the surface or prepare the surface for its coating. These coatings and surface cleaner products contain solvents which evaporate to the atmosphere during their use.

The solvents used in these products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are pollutants contributing to the formation of both fine particulate matter and ozone. Fine particulate matter and ozone are the main ingredients of smog.

Please note Environment Canada is proposing to address VOC emissions from automotive refinishing products in non-refillable aerosol containers 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. VOCemissions from automotive refinishing products are a contributing factor in the creation of air pollution. The use of automotive refinishing products results in emissions of VOCs from solvent-based products, and to a lesser extent, from water-based products. The solvents in these products are released to the atmosphere by evaporation during surface preparation and coating application.

What Are the Key Elements of these Regulations?

The Regulations established concentration limits for VOCs in 14 categories of automotive refinishing products. The VOC concentration limits apply to automotive refinishing products like pre-treatment wash primers, surface primers, primer sealers, colour coatings, clear coatings, truck bed liner coatings, surface cleaners etc. These automotive refinishing products are used to refinish, service, maintain, repair, restore, or modify a motor vehicle, mobile equipment or their parts.

The VOC concentration limits are listed below:

VOC Concentration Limits
Product Category VOC Concentration Limit
(grams per litre)
Primer surfacer 250
Primer sealer 340
Pre-treatment wash primer 660
Adhesion promoter 840
Colour coating 420
Uniform finish coating 540
Truck-bed liner coating 310
Temporary protective coating 60
Underbody coating 430
Single-stage coating 420
Multi-colour coating 680
Clear coating 250
Other coatings 250
Surface cleaners 50

How Do these Regulations Affect Canadian Businesses?

The Regulations apply to the manufacturers, importers and sellers of automotive refinishing products.

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.

When Did the Regulations Take Effect?

The manufacture and import prohibitions of automotive refinishing 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.

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

Canada's Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations are based on similar requirements in other jurisdictions, such as California and Europe.

How Do I Submit a Permit Application?

If you need to apply for a permit to manufacture or import an automotive refinishing products 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.

How Can I Stay Informed?

To receive the latest information about Environment Canada's efforts on VOC emissions from automotive refinishing products, please 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

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