ICS Magazine

New VOC Regulations Will Impact the Floor Care Marketplace

February 4, 2005

Floor care professionals, owners and managers of cleaning businesses, and formulators of many of the products used in day-to-day cleaning operations began experiencing a new regulatory landscape Jan. 1. That's when regulators in California, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Maine and Virginia reduced the acceptable level of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in a wide range of cleaning and floor care products. The list includes general-purpose cleaners, carpet cleaners, floor polishes and waxes, as well as furniture maintenance and leather care products, upholstery and glass cleaners, and spot removers.

What does this mean to cleaning professionals and owners and managers of cleaning companies? The immediate impact might not be immediately apparent as products on the shelves prior to the New Year may not be affected. However, as these grandfathered products are consumed, the marketplace could experience some noticeable differences. Product performance could be impacted with new formulations. Some products may not be available. And product pricing could change noticeably.

Confusion and Complexity
One likely outcome for the marketplace will be confusion. For example, certain states will regulate carpet and upholstery cleaners and EPA will not. In another case, VOC limits for floor-wax strippers vary among the regulating states. The complexity level will certainly rise for cleaning firms doing business in more than one state because their ability to make bulk product purchases may change.

The new regulations are generally more stringent than the EPA's, and their impact will go well beyond the jurisdictions that implemented them. Formulators will most likely produce products that meet the tightest standards and market them across the country.

Basically, formulators have only three options. First, they can limit the sales of their products to those states that have not adopted the new regulations. Second, they can pull non-compliant products completely off the market. Obviously, both of these options have serious implications for the marketplace. The remaining option, reformulate their products to meet VOC limits, is much more viable.

Ignoring the regulations is absolutely not an option for formulators and manufacturers. Anyone who makes, sells or offers affected products for sale will be held accountable for meeting the new VOC regulations in the nine jurisdictions involved. In some states, fines may be as high as $50,000 per day for each product that fails to meet the new standards.

Cleaner Air
These regulations are a direct result of a growing concern about air quality - including indoor air quality. VOCs react in the air to generate ground-level ozone, a key component of smog. Solvents in products like general-purpose cleaners, paint strippers, cleaning products, polishes and graffiti removers are major sources of VOCs.

California started the trend of state regulations in an effort to deal with smog in its highly populated areas. The other states, also with highly populated areas, are following suit. Given the large population distribution in these states, these changes will have a big impact on many industries beyond cleaning.

The ultimate benefit of this stepped-up oversight is cleaner air - both indoors and outdoors. Among the most obvious beneficiaries of this are the people who actually use the products involved.

The tighter regulations also offer an opportunity for formulators to improve their products using new, cutting-edge solvents, and for end-users to benefit from these new products. Floor care professionals and other end-users should learn from their distributors and formulators how they are planning to improve their products at the same time they deal with the new regulations.

Further information about the regulations discussed in this article can be found at the following websites:
EPA: http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/
California Air Resources Board: http://www.arb.ca.gov/homepage.htm
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control: http://www.dnrec.state.de.us/dnrec2000/
Maryland: http://www.epa.gov/reg3artd/permitting/online-stateregs.htm
Maine: http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/rules/notices/2004/090804.htm
New Jersey: http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/adoptions.html
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: http://www.dec.state.ny.us
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: http://www.dep.state.pa.us/
Virginia: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/air/regulations/airregs.html
Washington, D.C.: http://www.epa.gov/reg3artd/permitting/online-stateregs.htm