Canadian Government Sets New Limits on VOC Levels in Certain Consumer Products

Volatile Organic Compounds (Various VOC-producing Goods such as Paint, Cleaners and Motor Fluids)

Trade Update • JANUARY 18, 2021

Earlier this month, the Government of Canada published the Volatile Organic Compound Limits for Certain Products Regulations (SOR/201-268), which aim to reduce harmful VOC emissions from products imported to or manufactured in Canada.

What Are VOCs?

VOCs are carbon compounds (e.g., butane, toulene, pentane, propane, etc.) with boiling points roughly in the range of 50 to 250 °C (122 to 482 °F) that are created when toxic chemicals vaporize and form harmful gases.

VOCs include a variety of chemicals that are widely used as in products such as paints and lacquers, solvents, cosmetics, cleaners and disinfectants, engine additives, glues/adhesives, building materials, furnishings, and so on.

When exposed to sunlight, VOCs react with nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide to form tropospheric ozone, often referred to as ground-level smog. Higher concentrations of VOCs may cause irritation of the lungs, as well as damage to the liver, kidney, or central nervous system.

What Products Are Covered?

The new regulations impose VOC concentration limits on roughly 130 product categories, prohibiting the manufacture and import of these products in excess of their respective category-specific VOC limits.

Goods covered by the regulations include a wide range of products used by consumers, or in institutional, industrial or commercial applications and include: personal care products; automotive and household maintenance products; adhesives, solvents, sealants and caulks; and other miscellaneous products.

When Does This Take Effect?

The new regulations are set to come into force on January 1, 2023, to allow for the application for permits and the building of compliance units one year prior to implementation.

Maximum VOC concentration limits for the manufacture and import of products listed in the schedules to the regulations will come into effect on January 1, 2024, for all product categories, except disinfectants, which come into effect on January 1, 2025.

What Impact Will This Have on Canadian Businesses?

The regulations apply to any person who manufactures or imports products that contain VOCs and belong to one of the regulated product categories or subcategories.

Although companies are not required to submit reports or conduct product testing to comply with the regulations, the onus is directly on them to ensure that the products they import, or manufacture meet the regulatory limits.

To help ensure compliance, manufacturers and importers of a regulated product are required to indicate, on the product container, the date on which the product was manufactured or a code representing that date. Additionally, they must also keep records regarding regulated products in Canada for a period of at least 5 years.


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