China Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Regulations

Question: I’m concerned that my company may be in scope of new volatile organic compound (VOC) regulations in China, and one of them goes into effect in December 2020. Can you help identify the regulations?

Answer: Volatile organic compounds are carbon-based, organic chemicals that evaporate (or vaporize) at room temperature. Often used in adhesives, paints, and coatings, many of them react under sunlight to produce smog. Common VOCs include benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, and toluene. Some VOC regulations aim to limit worker or consumer exposure, while others are environmentally-focused and target large-scale emissions.

In 2018, China released a three-year action plan to improve air quality. The plan proposed:

  • Remediation plans for key VOC-emitting industries.
  • Banning the production and use of high-VOC solvent-based inks, adhesives, etc.
  • Enforcement actions to reduce the total environmental emission of certain VOCs by more than 10 percent between 2015–2020.

In March 2020, China released four mandatory national standards on VOCs in coatings, adhesives, inks, and cleaning agents. These standards affect companies using these products in the electrical and electronics industry. They are:

  • GB 30981-2020, “Limit of harmful substances of industrial protective coatings” — this becomes effective December 1, 2020.
  • GB 33372-2020, “Limit of volatile organic compounds content in adhesives” — this becomes effective December 1, 2020.
  • GB 38507-2020, “Limits of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in printing inks” — this becomes effective April 1, 2021.
  • GB 38508-2020, “Limits for volatile organic compounds content in cleaning agents” — this becomes effective December 1, 2020.

Article is current as of 2020-07-24.

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