Enforcement and Inspection, Regulatory Developments, Special Topics in Environmental Management

EPA Indicates Amendments for Aerosol Coatings Standards


The EPA’s Spring Regulatory Agenda indicates it will amend volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions standards for Aerosol Coatings under Section 183(e) of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The agency plans to complete the amended rule by year end 2021.

aerosol paint worker

Why Is This Action Necessary?

Aerosol coatings regulations apply to aerosol spray paints, which have been shown to contribute to ground-level ozone formation and ozone nonattainment.

Stratospheric ozone, formed 10–30 miles above the surface of the earth, is beneficial to human health in that it shields people from too much ultraviolet radiation. However, ground-level ozone is dangerous to human health and the environment. It is formed when emissions of VOCs and nitrogen oxides (NOx) chemically react in the presence of sunlight. High ground-level ozone can be harmful to breathe, and it can harm sensitive vegetation.

The EPA set standards for ground-level ozone concentrations that protect human health and the environment, know as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. There are many areas of the country that do not attain these standards and are designated as nonattainment areas for the ozone NAAQS. 

In this instance, the regulated community has petitioned for regulatory changes to ensure that the regulation accurately reflects current industry practice and the most current scientific research.

Industry Petitions

“In 2017, [the American Coatings Association (ACA)] developed and submitted two petitions for rulemaking regarding EPA’s aerosol coatings rule,” according to a June 29, 2021, article by the ACA. “The first petition requested that EPA update its table of [Maximum Incremental Reactivity (MIR)] values, adjust the default value, modify the regulatory language to allow for changing the value of existing compounds, and add several aerosol coatings compounds to EPA’s tables. ACA officially submitted this first petition to EPA in April 2017; however, the agency indicated that the complexity of the requests would be a significant obstacle to completion of a rulemaking. EPA encouraged ACA to submit a streamlined version of the petition and indicated that the agency would consider an expedited rulemaking process.

“Consequently, ACA submitted a second petition (pursuant to 40 CFR § 59.511(j)) that just asked EPA to add 16 aerosol coatings compounds to its table of MIR values. ACA petitioned EPA to amend the national VOC rule for aerosol coatings because various aerosol coatings manufacturers subject to EPA’s regulations concluded that several compounds are being used by formulators that are not listed [in the rule (i.e., on Tables 2A, 2B, or 2C of 40 CFR 59, Subpart E)]. It is the intent of industry members and the regulated community to use these compounds in aerosol coatings products.

“In its petitions ACA underscored that reactivity factors of each of the compounds have undergone significant scientific study under the direction of Dr. William P.L. Carter and have been peer reviewed by the scientific community,” according to the ACA article. “Notably, Dr. Carter’s reports reflect the most up-to-date scientific research available and are widely accepted. His research is also the basis for California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Aerosol Coatings Regulation, which has also assigned MIR values to these compounds.”

Current VOC aerosol coatings emissions standards were promulgated on March 24, 2008, which established VOC reactivity-based emission limits.

According to the EPA, the agency’s proposed amendments will:

  • Update the coating category product-weighted reactivity emission limits;
  • Add compounds and corresponding reactivity factors; and
  • Amend reporting requirements.

The ACA has announced its intentions to remain active in the proposed rule-making amendment process.