Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are found in everything from paints and coatings to
underarm deodorant and cleaning product formulations. Moreover, VOCs have been determined
to be a major contributing factor to the formation of ground-level ozone, which has been proven to
be a public health concern.
Therefore, in order to reduce ground-level ozone, the U.S. Clean Air Act regulates or limits manmade
emissions of VOCs. Areas of the country that do not meet national standards for groundlevel
ozone are referred to as “ozone nonattainment areas.” Under the Clean Air Act, these areas
generally are required to reduce VOC emissions within their boundaries (not including vehicle
emissions) by 3 percent each year until the national standard is met.
Emissions of VOCs, in and of themselves, do not necessarily give rise to health or environmental
concerns. In many areas, however, they react with oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in the presence of heat
and sunlight to form ground-level ozone – the primary component of “smog.” For that reason,
VOCs are regulated as “ozone precursors” under the U.S. Clean Air Act and similar state laws.
In order to reduce ozone levels, the U.S. EPA and numerous state agencies have issued regulations
to reduce VOC emissions from a variety of sources, including products that contain solvents such
as cleaning product formulations. In the case of cleaning products, the regulations limit the
amount of VOCs that can be used in various product categories.
The VOC limitations issued by these various authorities is constantly evolving. On an ever
increasing basis, new states are issuing VOC limitations, while states with existing limitations are
expanding the reaches of their regulations as well as issuing more aggressive restrictions for
existing product categories. The U.S. EPA also will soon issue more stringent national
Nonetheless, this summary provides an accurate side-by-side comparison of the VOC limitations
for institutional and consumer cleaning products issued by state and federal agencies, as of the date
of publication. ISSA will continue to update this summary as the VOC regulations continue to