VOC Compliance

Greg Schwietz,
L&M Construction
Chemicals, Inc.

One year after the compliance date of September 19, 1999 for the EPA's VOC ruling, I wish to offer an armchair view of its effects after the first year.

What's a VOC?

The goal of this ruling is to reduce the amount of anthropogenic VOC emissions, which are those emissions that are produced by human activity, on a national level. VOC emissions have been linked to urban smog development, and it is estimated that approximately 3% of total VOC emissions are a result of solvent evaporation of architectural coatings during their drying phase. The current regulations are estimated to reduce VOC emissions from architectural coatings by 20%. A simple calculation will reveal that this step is reducing total available smog causing VOC emissions slightly less than 1%. But, what the heck, you have to start somewhere. (By the way, you probably already know that the largest single contributor to VOC emissions is your trusty, or rusty, automobile.)

It was estimated at the time of the ruling that as many as 4,770 products would have to be reformulated to comply with the rule. It was also estimated that less than 1% of the total available products would cease to exist and that impact would be minimal.

A New National Regulation, but Some States are Tougher.

Prior to this ruling, VOC regulations were a reality to many manufacturers if they wished to do business in certain states or municipalities. California, because of its long time battle with smog, was the first to instigate regulations governing VOC content of architectural coatings in the 1980's. After California followed the states of Arizona, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Texas. Some of these states and municipalities maintain even more stringent VOC regulations than the new federal mandate. These more stringent local mandates prevail to this day.

During this first year of regulation, life in the construction world continues to go forward with little restraint. Many now non-compliant formulas were produced up to the last possible day, September 19, 1999, with many distributors and contractors stockpiling the 'old tried and true' solvent-based products. We are just now beginning to see these stockpiles dry up and world's first oil crisis.

Of the 61 architectural coating categories that were identified in the EPA ruling, only a few affected the concrete world. I would like to comment on the following:

Form Release Compounds.

Currently the largest offender in this group is diesel fuel or diesel fuel based form oil or form release. Efforts develop a water based release agent have not been generally favorable. Those of you who have been familiar with L&M for a long time may remember the days of our ECO-STRIP during the beginning of OPEC and the world's first oil crisis.

ECO-STRIP, a highly concentrated release agent that was diluted entirely with water, took the concept of chemical release agent to its furthest point. The problem, then and now, is that typically, concrete forms need the lubricating action of a petroleum-based product.

For our purposes here, we note that DEBOND FORM COATING is a chemically active, petroleum based product that offers VOC compliance, with no diesel fuel. This product has the distinct pedigree of being the very first product L&M manufactured and sold, at our inception, in 1961. It is also worth noting that during this time of VOC regulation and with the sudden increase in petroleum based products this year, DEBOND has experienced significant sales growth over the past few years. The reason for its increased popularity is that our customers have been re-introduced to the low cost benefits of using Debond. Low odor, clean stripping, lower cost per square foot, and VOC compliancy are all key factors in the increase in use of DEBOND.

Curing Compounds.

In this category we find the least change. Curing compounds as a group have been substantially or totally changed over to water-borne and VOC compliant formulations. Many of the old solvent-based hydrocarbon resin curing compounds have been reformulated into water-borne systems. Also, there has been a dramatic increase over the past 10 years in the use of wax based, water- borne curing compounds, particularly in highway construction. Solvent-based formulations had been mostly phased out prior to the EPA's mandate because of their higher solvent costs when compared to their water-borne equals. The VOC maximum of 350 grams per liter for this category is uniformly found around the country.

Curing and Sealing Compounds.

It was in this category that the most changes took place. In answer to the cries of producers regarding the unique needs of our industry, the EPA responded to requests for a separate curing compound category that referenced the commonly used curing and sealing compounds. It established a new category, one which by the way is not currently recognized in all states, separate from curing compounds. The new category holds a higher VOC threshold maximum of 700 grams per liter and ties solvent based products to the ASTM C 1315 specification. This ruling effectively eliminated inexpensive, low solids, solvent-based, acrylic-type cure and seals, but allowed continued use of high solids, (minimum 25%) solvent based products.

It was in this category that we see some of the biggest changes and improvements in product formulation. For years the manufacturing answer to the VOC rule was to mix (technically called - emulsify) a solvent based acrylic curing compound with water and offer a water/solvent-blended product. These first generation water-borne products had the following problems: water solvent components stratified, poor curing qualities, high solvent odor, and the acrylic film dried white or opaque, not clear. Over the past few years, I am happy to say, L&M has perfected an entirely new generation of acrylic curing and sealing compounds in its DRESS & SEAL WB products. These products are formulated to be very low odor, spray very easily even in the high solids formulations, cure concrete well, and leave a durable film for protection of concrete surfaces from light to medium duty wear, that dries clear.

Solvent-based DRESS & SEAL and DRESS & SEAL #30 have been reformulated to comply with current regulations and to make installation easy. With a new low molecular weight acrylic resin system these high solids products spray very easily through a standard hand pump sprayer and are recommended to cure cold weather concrete placements. This is a major improvement over other companies' products. Finally, all DRESS & SEAL products and DRESS & SEAL WB products come formulated with SUN BLOCKER, a ultra-violet anti- yellowing ingredient, to allow usage on exterior concrete.

Waterproofing Sealers.

In this category of products we also see significant changes in product offerings. Solvent-based silicone, silane, siloxane, and acrylic resin treatments have been the staple in this category for years. Some years ago due to local regulations, water borne water repellents were introduced. Typically these products were either unstable in their formulation over a long period of time and required job site mixing or required the use of this product within the constraints of a very short shelf life. The effectiveness of these waterborne, low VOC water repellents was somewhat under par for their solvent carried equals, so the impetus to change was not there.

In the past few years, strides have been made in the production of improved water- borne alternatives. L&M's AQUAPEL, HYDRO PEL and HYDROBLOCK are notable examples. These products use new silane/siloxane blend chemistry in a ready to use, water- borne system that provides an odorless, long-term effective treatment for concrete and masonry. Some manufacturers have continued to offer solvent-based systems, raising their formulations' active solids content and coverage rates to meet current, national regulations of 600 grams per liter. However, some states have more restrictive guidelines of 400 grams per liter, and the trend is even lower, with a 250 gram restriction scheduled for California in 2005. L&M's products are under 200 grams per liter already and have been laboratory and field tested to provide maximum protection with the easiest use. We recommend their use with confidence.

Many Concrete Specifications are still out of date.

It is necessary for spec writers and structural engineers to catch up and upgrade their specifications. L&M technical reps are trained to help them bring these specs current with current ASTM and ACI standards. They can also assist the design professional with upgrades on product selections based on the VOC criteria. L&M's popular Construction Chemicals guide has been recently released to include current products. I recommend that you ask for this guide.

For further information regarding current websites containing detailed information regarding the September 19, 1999 VOC ruling, visit our website at www.lmcc.com.

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© 2000 L&M Construction Chemicals, Inc. | ConcreteNews September 2000.

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