This report was prepared by the engineering firm, RMT/Four Nines of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. Although it was prepared for finishers in Pennsylvania, it may be applicable to many finishers across the country who want to calculate their maximum allowable VOC content.
The Pennsylvania code gives the maximum allowable content of VOCs in surface coatings by process. The values in Table I are in lbs of VOC per gal of coating (minus water). These values are based on a standard solvent density of 7.36 lb/gal. Not all solvents have this density, however. To determine the allowable VOC content, corrected for nonstandard solvent density, one must use Equation 1.
Equation 1:
Pct reduction=100{1[y(1(x÷z_{1}))÷x(1(y÷z_{2}))]}
Where:
x=lb VOC÷gal of coating minus water
for the present coating. (Maximum allowable VOC content at coating's solvent density.)
y=lb VOC÷gal of coating minus water
(Found in Table I. Maximum allowable VOC content at standard solvent density.)
z_{1}=lb VOC÷gal of solvent
(Or density of VOC for present coating)
z_{2}lb VOC (standard)÷gal of standard solvent
(Or standard solvent density of 7.36 lb/gal)
Equation 1 is formulated to solve for the pct reduction required by a control method when using a coating with VOC content greater than that specified in Table I. However, it is possible to use this equation to solve for x, the maximum allowable VOC content for a coating with nonstandard solvent density. By setting the pct reduction to zero in the equation and arranging the equation, one can determine x as follows.
Equation 2:
y{1(x÷z_{1})} = x{1(y÷z_{2})}
As a practical example for airdry coatings, the VOC limit in Table I is 3.5 lb/gal. The following analysis will be limited to coatings containing no water and no exempt solvents. A coating with a VOC content reported by the manufacturer as 3.44 lb/gal is selected for use in a dip tank. The coating also has a reported volatile solvent content of 52.37 pct by volume, which implies a solids content of 100  52.37 = 47.63 pct by volume. To determine whether or not this is a compliant coating, first solve for the present coating's solvent density:
3.44 (lb VOC (solvent) ÷ gal of coating) x (1 gal of coating ÷ 0.5237 gal of solvent) = 6.569 lb/gal of solvent
Note that this solvent density is less than the standard of 7.36 lb/gal.
Next, place these values in Equation 3 and solve for x: z_{1} = 6.569, y = 3.50 and z_{2} = 7.36. The result is a value of 3.31 lb/gal, the maximum allowable VOC content for the present coating adjusted for its solvent density.
Equation 3:
x=y{1x/z_{1})÷(1x/z_{2})}
The actual reported VOC content of 3.44 lb/gal is greater than this result and the coating is noncompliant for its intended application as an airdry coating. Even though the actual VOC content of the coating is less than 3.50 lb/gal value, it is not a compliant coating because it does not meet the adjusted maximum allowable VOC content of 3.31 lb/gal.
To understand Equation 3 more fully, it is helpful to rearrange it in this way.
{x÷(1x/z_{1})} = {y÷(1 y/z_{2})}
Substituting units into Equation 4 results in this:
Equation 4:
{(lb VOC÷gal coating)÷(1((lb VOC÷gal coating)÷(lb VOC÷gal solvent))} = {(lb VOC÷gal coating)÷(1((lb VOC÷gal coating)÷(lb VOC÷gal solvent))}
This can be simplified into
(lb VOC÷gal solids) = (lb VOC÷gal solids)
The righthand side of Equation 4 may be regarded as the maximum allowable VOC content of a coating divided by the minimum required volume fraction of solids in a standard coating. For all coatings used in airdry applications,
(1(y÷z_{2})) = 1(3.5÷7.36) or 0.5245
Thus, the minimum required volume percentage of solids in a standard coating for airdry application is 52.45 pct. The righthand side of Equation 4 becomes
3.5 

lb VOC 
0.5245 
=6.673 
gal solids 
This is the maximum amount of VOC per unit volume of solids that the standard airdry coating may contain. The lefthand side of Equation 4 represents the lbs of VOC per gal of solids allowable in the present coating that has nonstandard solvent density (and also nonstandard solids volume fraction).
Equation four can now be rewritten as:
x (1 + 6.673/ z_{1}) = 6.673
x=(6.673÷ (1+ 6.673/z_{1}
Setting z_{1} = 6.569 lb/gal as before the solvent density of the present coating, x again evaluates to 3.31.
The term (1  x/z_{1}) is equal to 0.4961.
This means that the solids volume percentage in the coating would have to be at least 49.61 pct in order to be in compliance. Since the solids content of the coating is only 47.63 pct, this coating is not in compliance.
A second coating has a reported VOC content of 3.45 lb VOC/gal of coating, which is slightly greater than the first coating. However, this coating has a volatile content of 47.05 pt by volume and a solids content of 52.95 pct by volume. The solvent density is 3.45/0.4705 = 7.33 lb/gal.
According to Equation 3, the maximum allowable VOC content for this particular coating is 3.49 lb VOC/gal of coating. Since this coating's VOC content of 3.45 lb VOC/gal is less than the allowable value of 3.49 lb VOC/gal, this coating complies with the requirements for airdry coatings.
The foregoing discussion primarily serves to make the following point. In the world of VOCs the number on the product label or MSDS does not always tell the whole story. It is possible to switch to a lower VOC coating from a higher VOC coating only to find you have moved from a compliant coating to a noncompliant coating. Check solvent density and/or solids volume ratio as well as VOC content then evaluate the compliance status of a coating.
TABLE IAllowable Content of VOCs in Surface Coatings by Process (in Pennsylvania) 
Coating Process 
lbs/gal 
Coil coating 
2.60 
Automotive/light duty truck 

a.Prime coat 
1.92 
b.Topcoat 
2.84 
c.Repair 
4.84 
Metal furniture 
3.00 
Large appliance coating 
2.84 
Miscellaneous metal parts 

a.Topcoats for heavy duty trucks 
3.50 
b.Hopper car and tank car interiors 
3.50 
c.Pail and drum interiors 
4.30 
d.Clear coatings 
4.30 
e.Airdry coatings 
3.50 
f.Extreme performance coatings 
3.50 
g.All others 
3.00 

TABLE IIAllowable Content of VOCs in Surface Coatings by Process (in Pennsylvania) 
Coating Process 
VOC allowed per gal of solid 
Coil coating 
4.02 
Automotive/light duty truck 

a.Prime coat 
2.60 
b.Topcoat 
4.62 
c.Repair 
14.16 
Metal furniture 
5.06 
Large appliance coating 
4.62 
Miscellaneous metal parts 

a.Topcoats for heavy duty trucks 
6.67 
b.Hopper car and tank car interiors 
10.34 
c.Pail and drum interiors 
10.34 
d.Clear coatings 
6.67 
e.Airdry coatings 
6.67 
f.Extreme performance coatings 
5.06 
g.All others 
5.06 
