What do the letters VOC on clear coats mean?

In this article you will find out what VOC stands for and how their regulations affect the use of clear coats in auto body refinishing.

Environmentally friendly clear coats low in VOC

Taking care of the environment has become one of modern societies’ main concerns thanks to the level of awareness acquired. This has led governments of developed countries to commit themselves to protecting the environment and to developing regulations.

Therefore, the bodyshop is no stranger to this reality and nowadays more environmentally friendly paints and products of all kinds are already being used. With regard to these paints, today we will talk about low VOC emission clear coats.


Definition of VOC

VOC stands for volatile organic compounds that are released into the atmosphere by the various paints when they are applied by the end user.

Additionally, a volatile organic compound can refer to solvent-based by-products that are incorporated into the paint during the manufacturing process. The solvents or thinners have a significant polluting and harmful effect on the environment and human beings, hence their importance in relation to the composition of the paint.

In Europe, various directives have been developed relating to composition of paints for countries in the European Union to incorporate into their legal systems.


European low VOC content regulations

Social concern about environmental pollution has led European governmental bodies to develop regulations that seek to establish common criteria for action against environmental pollution and that affect the different actors that make up the industrial paint sector’s conglomerate, both in their manufacture and use in factories, workshops and industries. These regulations must be incorporated into the legal system of the European Union’s different countries and have the force of law.

Out of all of them, the regulation that directly affects the bodyshop is the well-known Directive on paints that came into effect on April 30, 2004, with the aim that the different countries would incorporate it into their respective legal systems. In the case of Spain, the transposition of this directive was made effective through the Royal Decree 227/2006 of February 24, 2006.

This standard defines the characteristics of the different paints and clear coats (with the exception of aerosols) in terms of their solvent content once diluted and/or hardened, with the aim of limiting their maximum VOC content. The aim of this limitation is to control the formation of ozone caused by VOCs in the troposphere and thus reduce atmospheric pollution.

In order to achieve this, the Directive details the different, most commonly used types of paints and sets a VOC limit in grams per liter, specific to each of them. It also establishes the obligation to specify this information on the label to make it easier to verify its legality and prohibits the marketing of paints and clear coats that exceed these limits from January 1, 2007.

According to the Directive, the recommended values are under constant review so the European Commission can adapt them, depending on any technical developments that make it possible to reduce them, as the manufacturers have agreed to focus on innovation in this respect.

In order to ensure that the regulation is enforced and does not become obsolete, there is a mandate to the various European bodies and governments which forbids the marketing of any products that do not comply with these limit values. A monitoring program is also established in each of the countries of the European Union to inform the European bodies of their correct compliance. These monitoring programs will be repealed on July 16, 2021 by the European Union Regulation 2019/1020 in which new market surveillance and monitoring mechanisms and strategies are developed to ensure the conformity of products on the market.

Finally, exceptions to the Directive are established in the form of a series of activities related to Directive 2010/75/EU, and the repair and restoration of classic vehicles with historical and cultural value.


What are low VOC emission clear coats and what are they used for?

Low VOC emission clear coats are clear coats that have been developed by various paint manufacturers to comply with the legislation indicated in the previous point. These clear coats do not contain more than 420 grams of solvent per liter of product. At the moment, some brands have already developed water-based lacquers, although they have not yet reached the level of quality and finish of solvent-based lacquers.

By using low VOC emission clear coats, the following advantages are obtained:

  • The aforementioned regulations on the use of paints and clear coats are complied with.
  • They are more environmentally friendly and contribute to the improvement of the environment.
  • The harmful and toxicological effects on humans are reduced considerably due to the reduced presence of solvents in the clear coat composition. The health of the workers is also protected.
  • The durability of the activated carbon filters in the paint booths is increased, since the lower quantity of solvents reduces the processes needed to convert the contaminating particles during filtration of sprayed paint that does not reach the repaired part.

The paint and clear coat manufacturer ROBERLO offers clear coats with low VOC emissions such as the Kronox series, notably KRONOX 510, 610, 620 and 3200


Respecting the environment and people’s health with low VOC content clear coats

Environmental awareness is an attitude that any modern society has already integrated and internalized. Within them, the greatest responsibility falls on those who manufacture and use paints and clear coats, so the development and use of low VOC clear coats is an unavoidable necessity. This benefits the environment, the people who apply them and the bodyshop or the industry itself.

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