Implemented since late 2020: New VOC Standards in China

What has to be considered regarding the implementation and supervision of VOC Standards in China? Companies manufacturing products such as Coatings, Inks, Adhesives and Cleaning producs should take specific considerations into account before placing their products on the China market. 

 Before placing products onto the China market Image source: Zerbor - (symbol image).

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are organic chemical compounds which may rapidly evaporate due to their high vapor pressure and low boiling point, for example, ethanol, formaldehyde, benzene, etc. Currently, different regions such as the EU, the US, Canada, Japan and China have all implemented their own set of national VOC standards.

Specifically, in China, the new VOC standards have been implemented since late 2020. There are mainly four categories in the scope of VOCs: Coatings, Inks, Adhesives and Cleaning products.

In March 2020, the Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China released the Announcement on the issuance of VOC national standards, which provide limits for VOCs and other hazardous substances.

  • Limit of harmful substances of woodware coatings – GB 18581-2020

  • Limit of harmful substances of architectural wall coatings – GB 18582-2020
  • Limit of harmful substances of vehicle coatings – GB 24409-2020
  • Limit of volatile organic compounds content in adhesive – GB 33372-2020
  • Limits of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in printing ink – GB 38507-2020
  • Limits for volatile organic compounds content in cleaning agents – GB 38508-2020
  • Others

In China, VOCs are those chemical compounds which participate in atmospheric photochemical reactions, including non-methane hydrocarbons (alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, aromatic hydrocarbons, etc.), oxygenated organic compounds (aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, ethers, etc.), chlorine-containing organic compounds, nitrogen-containing organic compounds, sulfur-containing organic compounds and so on.

Important to have a comprehensive understanding

Before placing your products onto the China market, it is very important to have a comprehensive understanding of China VOC standards. There are dozens of standards based on product type, uses and industry type. For every VOC standard, there is a specific content of VOCs and other compositions. A corresponding testing method is also indicated.  
Below is some practical advice from CIRS based on our own experience:

  • Establish an inventory of China VOC standards for different target products.

  • Check if qualified testing reports are available in the supply chain and if not, contact a lab with specific certification to process required tests based on standard testing guidelines.
  • Manage all relevant documents (testing reports, SDS, label, import sheets, etc.)
  • Consider other regulations in China, for example, China REACH, China GHS, Hazardous Chemical regulations, etc.

Strict Supervisions from local authorities in China

Different customs and marketing authorities in China have been implementing relevant supervisions on coatings, inks, adhesives and Cleaning products since 2021. Both domestic and imported products are within the scope.

In conclusion, for the new national standards of Coatings, Inks, Adhesives and Cleaning products in China, further requirements are proposed based on the product’s uses and composition. The supervision of VOCs in relevant products have been enforced by different local authorities in China. Companies manufacturing or importing such products should take these considerations into account before placing their products on the China market.

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