"VOC-free" products set to shake up paint market

A range of decorative gloss and emulsion paints claimed to be the first to contain no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is due to be launched in Britain in June. If it lives up to the manufacturer's claims it will put the major paint makers on the spot - particularly if its producer succeeds in influencing the eco-labelling criteria for paints which are due to be agreed at EC level within the next few months.

Decorative paint is a significant source of VOCs. Each year, the UK paint industry produces some 170 million litres of solvent-based gloss and eggshell paints which release up to 80 million litres of VOCs, principally white spirits, into the atmosphere.

Emulsion paints are primarily water-based, but most contain VOCs at levels of 2-10% to act as coalescents, flow aids or viscosity modifiers. The UK's annual output of 240 million litres of

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