Adhesives under pressure from VOC regulations
By Ed Kinsel
June 29, 2017 | 10:52 am CDT

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) of all adhesive products has been under intense scrutiny and regulatory pressure since the mid 1970s. California has been especially active in regulating the emission of VOCs in the state, often going well beyond Federal regulations.

In addition to being a large and important market in its own right, California exerts influence well beyond the state as some regions of the country such as the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) states in the mid Atlantic portion of the U.S. Even foreign markets such as Canada look to California regulations as models for regulating their VOC emissions.

In California, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulates VOCs from all aerosol adhesives sold in the state, whether for consumer, industrial or commercial uses. Since the 1990’s CARB has reduced allowable VOC’s in aerosol adhesives sold in the state by almost 50 percent. CARB’s original regulations in the 1990s allowed up to 75 percent VOCs by weight in aerosol adhesives.

The level was dropped in the early 2000s with the specific level depending on the type. For example, mist spray adhesives could contain up to 65 percent VOCs while web spray products had to be below 55 percent. There were various other level for specialty aerosol adhesives such as those used to bond PVC.

This historical pressure to reduce VOCs led to a number of aerosol adhesive suppliers exiting the California market as some manufacturers had difficulty meeting the new regulations. The difficulty was compounded by the CARB prohibition against using commonly available solvents such as methylene chloride that are exempted by both the U.S. EPA and CARB from VOC calculations.   

In 2015, after much input from industry and other interested parties, CARB adopted new regulations for aerosol adhesives that dropped the allowable VOCs in aerosol adhesives even further, starting January 1, 2017. The new limits included dropping allowable limits for mist type aerosol adhesives to 30 percent by weight and to 40 percent for web spray adhesives. These new regulatory reductions put further pressure on aerosol adhesive manufacturers. Industry experts at the time were quoted as saying that these limits would be very difficult to meet.

NewStar began working on a web spray contact adhesive for bonding High Pressure Laminate (HPL) and other demanding applications in late 2015. By early fourth quarter of 2016, NewStar had developed a product that met the new lower standards. Labelled EverStrong ES 10+, this web spray aerosol adhesive product has a total VOC content of less than 40 percent along with the quick dry time, long open time (30-40 minutes), high strength and high temperature resistance needed for bonding HPL. NewStar was the first to introduce an aerosol web spray adhesive meeting the new 2017 CARB VOC requirements for bonding HPL and remains today one of the few suppliers capable of supplying a compliant product.

NewStar Adhesives Inc. is a privately held manufacturer and marketer of contact and specialty spray adhesives in Cartersville, Georgia.

Ed Kinsel, is a drector of NewStar responsible for its technical development. He has been a participant in the adhesive industry since the early 1990’s leading compliance and development efforts at STA-PUT, TACC, NorthStar and now NewStar.

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