Frequently asked questions

Question

What are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?

Answer

Decorative paints and related products are inherently beneficial to the environment, by preserving and protecting surfaces such as wood, and enhancing the aesthetics and enjoyment of living and working environments. However, these products contain chemicals and so we need to be aware of and manage the associated environmental risks.

Today the biggest environmental issue facing the paint industry is that of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions and their contribution to air pollution, or more simply, the effect of solvents contained in paints on the air that we breathe.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that will evaporate easily into the air usually at room temperature and often give a distinctive smell.  They are emitted from many sources including fuels, numerous industrial operations and household products such as cleaning agents, cosmetics, aerosols and paints. They can accelerate the rate nitrogen oxides (from combustion processes) react with sunlight to create low level ozone and photochemical smog, which contributes to air pollution.

Even though less than 2% of all man-made VOCs in Europe come from decorative paint, Dulux have long implemented a voluntary industry agreement for carrying out VOC reductions in products and for displaying VOC content information on product labels. This is to encourage customers to choose products with lower VOC content.

The globe label (shown right), as initiated by B&Q, is the voluntary label which Dulux uses on all its products.

Now official UK legislation, based on EU directive 2004/42/EC, is in place and covers coatings applied to buildings, their trim and fittings and associated structures when applied for decorative, functional and protective purposes. This directive is a two stage process setting upper limits for the amount of VOCs allowed in products. The first stage, for which Dulux is fully compliant, started in January 2007.  The second stage starts in 2010, when even stricter limits will be applied, meaning major changes to traditional solvent-based coatings such as products for wood and metal.