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The harm of VOCs in our environment

Ultralast™ coatings are LOW to ZERO VOC and importantly but sometimes forgotten are also free of Hazardous Air Pollutants, (HAPs). HAPs are toxic chemicals widely recognized to be very hazardous while others, including many of the listed solvents, are generally considered to have relatively low toxicity. The HAPs list can be seen at

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are found in everything from paints and finishes to underarm deodorant and freshly baked bread. They are a major concern of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and air quality boards across the USA and Europe. VOCs and HAPS have been found to be a major contributing factor to the production of ozone, a common air pollutant that has been proven to be a public health hazard.

Ozone has been a difficult pollutant to control, because it is not emitted into the air, but actually formed in the atmosphere through a photochemical process. It is in this process that VOCs play a significant role. VOCs in the air react with oxides of nitrogen in the presence of sunlight to form ozone.

Ozone in the stratosphere is part of what is commonly referred to as the 'ozone layer'. Ozone in the ozone layer is helpful because it helps to block the sun's ultraviolet radiation.

Unfortunately, most VOCs produce ozone, which inhabits the troposphere. Troposphere or ground level ozone is a harmful, photochemical oxidant that significantly contributes to the formation of smog. Troposphere ozone is regularly measured as an indicator of smog levels in the atmosphere.

On days when ozone is high, usually in the summer months, health officials recommend that those with asthma, respiratory conditions, the young and old are cautious with outdoor activity due to the dangerous affects that excess amounts of ozone can have upon their health and well being. However, the affects can also be felt by those who are 'healthy'.

A research study at Harvard University found that ozone levels of even .08 parts per million contributed to lung disease and pulmonary function deterioration in children. According to EPA studies, ground level ozone affects the normal functions of the lung in many healthy humans. There is evidence that prolonged exposure to ozone causes permanent damage to lung tissue and interferes with the functioning of the immune system.

Other problems resulting from excessive ozone levels can include damage to the ecosystem including the retardation of plant growth and crop yields.

Motor vehicles and industry are the two largest producers of volatile organic compounds. There are various industrial producers of VOCs including sewage treatment facilities, electronic manufacturers, chemical manufacturers, woodworking industries, paint spraying, baking facilities, dry cleaners, petroleum refineries, printers and paint shops. The EPA has determined that architectural coatings account for approximately 9 percent of the VOC emissions from all consumer and commercial products.

Specifying and applying low to zero VOC and HAPS free paint products that have the ability to meet industrial performance demands, whilst posing no threat to the environment, is a win-win situation for all involved parties.

The above information was extracted from 'Building News, Volume B, Number 2, Feb. 1999. Read More