In July 2019, the government of Canada released an amended version of the draft Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits for Certain Products Regulations (known as the proposed Regulations). Originally drafted in 2008, the proposed Regulations established VOC concentration limits for certain product categories not already covered by other Canadian regulations. Preliminary consultations for the proposed regulations took place in 2013. A consultation document titled Revisions to the Proposed Volatile Organic Compound Concentration Limits for Certain Products Regulations was released for comment and a total of 29 written submissions were received from stakeholders. The public consultation process formed the basis for the 2019 revision of the proposed Regulations.
The proposed Regulations would prohibit the import and manufacture of products in Canada that exceed the prescribed VOC concentration limits in approximately 130 product categories and subcategories. Where possible, the proposed Regulations would align with the 2010 California Air Resources Board (CARB) Consumer Products Regulations. Due to Canada’s colder climate, the proposal includes some deviations from California’s standards, including a higher limit for non-chemically curing sealant and caulking products, addition of a category for acoustical sealants and the exclusion of the windshield washer fluid category.
What products are affected?
Certain products deemed to contribute to VOC emissions that are used by household, institutional and commercial consumers will be restricted. Specific product categories include personal care, automotive and household maintenance products; adhesives, adhesive removers, sealants and caulks; and other miscellaneous products.
The proposed Regulations apply to any product that contains VOCs and belongs to a product category that is set out in Column 1 of the table to Schedule 1, or Column 1 of Schedule 2. VOC limits are measured and expressed as a percentage of the product’s net weight.
The following products are excluded from the proposed Regulations:
• Designed to be used solely in a manufacturing or processing activity;
• To be used solely in a laboratory for analysis, in scientific research or as a laboratory analytical standard;
• Regulated under the Pest Control Products Act;
• Manufactured or imported for export only;
• Adhesives that are to be sold in containers of 0.03 l or less;
• Regulated under the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Concentration Limits For Architectural Coatings Regulations or the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) concentration Limits For Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations;
• Are used in or on a new car at the time of its manufacture; or
• In transit through Canada, from a place outside Canada to another place outside Canada.
One noteworthy deviation from CARB’s Consumer Products Regulations is the product category definitions. The proposed Regulations did not adopt the text of CARB’s definitions. A product is considered to belong in a product category under Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 if it is indicated anywhere on its container, or in any documentation relating to the product that is supplied by the product’s manufacturer, importer or their authorized representative, that the product may be used as a product that fits within that product category.
There has been push-back from an industry association, requesting that the exact text used in CARB’s definitions be adopted. The Government of Canada has responded stating that regulatory drafting conventions do not allow for verbatim adoption of product category definitions as found in CARB’s regulations because Canadian regulations are drafted in two languages, and must be written in a way that can be interpreted in both languages and under both the common and civil systems of law. Additionally, the Government of Canada does not define commonly known terms or dictionary definitions.
If a product belongs to more than one product category listed in the Schedule, the lowest applicable VOC concentration limit must be applied.
Alternative compliance options
A few alternative compliance options have been offered to provide some flexibility in complying with the proposed Regulations.
1. VOC Tradeable Unit Credit Program
A permit that allows companies to manufacture or import products that exceed concentration limits in the following ways:
• Credits may be earned from products that were reformulated to have a VOC concentration below the regulatory limits and used to balance the emissions from products that exceed the VOC concentration limits
• Credits may be purchased from other companies
Permits would be valid indefinitely if participating companies continue to submit the required annual reports and meet conditions set out by the proposed Regulations
2. Permit: Product resulting in fewer VOC emissions
A permit could be obtained allowing for products to exceed the VOC concentration limits if, as a result of product design, formulation, delivery or other factors, the total VOC emissions from the product would be lower than those from a comparable compliant product when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s written instructions. The permit would be valid for four years and could be renewed every four years, if an application is submitted 90 days prior to expiry.
3. Permit: Compliance not technically or economically feasible
A temporary permit could be obtained for manufacture or import of products that would be otherwise unable to meet the designated VOC limits for technical or economic reasons. This type of permit may be obtained if the conditions outlined in the proposed Regulations are met, including a plan that shows how the products will be brought into compliance. The permit would be valid for two years and may be extended if an application is submitted 90 days prior to expiry.
The comment period has ended and now we are on the watch for the Regulations to be finalized. The proposed Regulations will come into force on Jan. 1 of the calendar year that is two years after the calendar year during which they are registered. One exception to this date is the VOC limits for disinfectants (Item 31 of the table to Schedule 1), which will come into force after one additional year. Currently, we do not know the anticipated date for adoption. We recommend checking your products to see if they will fall under the scope of these proposed Regulations. If you are not already compliant, you will want to ensure you are able to re-formulate or establish an alternative compliance option by the time the proposed Regulations come into force. For VOC compliance and other regulatory questions, contact us by visiting nexreg.com. SPRAY