VOC Levels and How to Reduce Them in Your Paint Application Process

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The level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in paints is the biggest environmental issue facing the coatings industry today. Scientific research shows that the harmful effects of VOCs are significant, and the manufacture and use of paints with high VOC content is being increasingly regulated. In this article you will learn:

  • What volatile organic chemicals are
  • Their impact on human health and the environment
  • Legislative requirements relating to VOCs
  • How Ultrimax can help you to reduce your VOC emissions

What are VOCs?

VOCs are chemicals found in paints to preserve them, to enhance their flow, and to create specialist properties such as resistance to corrosion. When applying paints, VOCs are released into the air as gases through the process of evaporation. Solvent-based paints, thinners and brush cleaners can contain up to 50% VOCs, while high-solid paints and water-based products contain just 8-15%.

How do VOCs affect human health and the environment?

In the presence of sunlight, VOCs can react with nitrogen oxides to produce ground level ozone and photochemical smog that contribute to atmospheric pollution. Studies show that smog is linked to increasing incidence of heart disease and certain cancers. High VOC exposure, through activities such as spray painting, can also have serious short- and long-term effects on human health. Ground level ozone is harmful to the environment too. It can result in low crop yields and cause plants to have an increased susceptibility to environmental stresses such as pests and disease.

What does the law say about VOCs?

To protect health

In the UK, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations require that employers protect their workforce against the risks from VOCs found in solvents. The Health and Safety Executive can provide you with further information about the Regulations and how to comply.

To protect the environment

The British Coatings Federation (BCF) and UK Government have been working alongside their European counterparts to develop legislation that reduces VOC emissions. The UK coatings industry must comply with the following legislation:

  • Paint Product Directive (Directive 2004/42/CE) - enacted in the UK by the Volatile Organic Compounds in Paints, Varnishes and Vehicle Refinishing Products Regulations 2012 and enforced by local authorities.
  • Part I of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990: Local Air Pollution Control(LAPC) - companies using more than five tonnes of organic solvent for coating in any 12-month period are required to:
    • Register with their local authority and obtain an authorisation to operate the coating process
    • Comply with the conditions contained in the relevant Secretary of State's Process Guidance (PG) Notes.


  • Industrial Emissions Directive (IED - Directive 2010/75/EU) - applicable to specific industrial activities and enacted in the UK by the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.
  • To find out more about these legislative requirements, visit Legislation.gov.uk.


How can Ultrimax help to minimise VOC levels in your paint application process?

Ultrimax is committed to helping organisations become compliant, sustainable and efficient. We can support you to reduce your VOC consumption without compromising on quality. Here are three key ways in which we help our customers to manage their VOC emissions and comply with legislation: We manufacture a range of high-quality paints and coatings that have been specifically designed with VOC compliance in mind. These include: Ultrimax 1 Compliant- High-solid paint This all-in-one primer and gloss contains a higher ratio of solids to solvents and therefore releases fewer VOCs into the air than solvent-based products. With excellent anti-corrosion properties, it's perfect for marine and machinery applications.

Aquimax water-based paints

Our Aquimax Primer and Primer Finish use water in place of solvents. This not only greatly reduces their VOC emissions but results in much quicker drying times too. We can support you to adopt new application methods that reduce the amount of VOC-containing product you use:

Electrostatic spraying

This highly efficient and cost-effective technology can reduce product wastage and overspray by up to 20%. Less paint means fewer VOC emissions too. The system produces a superior finish compared to standard spraying methods and it's suitable for both powder coating and liquid paint application.

Solvent recycling machine

These machines distil used solvent to produce clean, reusable solvent. They reduce your solvent purchase and disposal costs significantly, bringing you a high return on investment. In many cases, solvent recycling machines can reduce your VOC consumption levels below licensing levels. If you're a paint shop, knowing your VOC figures is essential. Part 1 of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990 requires that you inform your local authority and apply for a permit if you exceed 5 tonnes. Permits cost almost œ2K p/a and failure to comply can result in hefty fines and litigation. Keeping track of your VOCs can be time consuming and a burden on your admin resources. We take the hassle out the process. All our invoices include details of your order's VOC figures and we can provide you with monthly reports.

  1. Low VOC coatings

  2. Paint transfer efficiencies

  3. VOC monthly reports


Need More Help?

If you can't find a solution, give us a calland we'll help guide you in the right direction.

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Should I use LEV Testing To Reduce MY VOC Levels?


Get Expert Support

Need more information before buying a booth? Our Total Paint Shop Support Team can help you with any enquiry.

Call: 01302 856666

Email: sales@ultrimaxcoatings.co.uk

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