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Regulatory Review: SCAQMD Rule 1168

South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD) Volatile Organic Content (VOC) Rule 1168 for Adhesive and Sealant Applications is being reviewed and edited this year. In its present form, 1168 has existed since 2005; many industry experts believe it has been long overdue for a revision. While we can only speculate at this time about potential changes, it is possible to discuss a few relative certainties and why these are likely to happen.
Clarification of Definitions
SCAQMD staff has been systematically improving category definitions in other recent VOC rule changes, and these alterations are expected to continue. Such changes help to determine what products belong to what categories—or, in some cases, which rule (see below). Manufacturers can more easily decide what category their products fit into, and it will be easier for SCAQMD staff to enforce rules. Seeing industry-related or commercially used terms in the new rule would not be surprising, either, as this also aids in clarification.
Clarification Between Rules 1168 and 1113
There is more overlap than one might initially envision between VOC Rule 1113 on Architectural and Industrial Maintenance Coatings (AIMs) and Rule 1168. Many manufacturers sell products that are governed under both rules. Some manufacturers even sell competing products where one has categorized their product under 1168 and the other under 1113. Of course, detailing grades of AIMs governed by 1113 and used in application as sealants have questionable categorization as well. This ambiguity between the two rules leads to market confusion and possible unintended exemptions that SCAQMD staff will likely be looking to eliminate.
Maximum Single Site Non-Compliance Exemption of 55 Gal
We can expect exemptions for maximum quantity usage of non-compliant products, most notably primers, to disappear. This is consistent with recent revisions in other rules. The new rule will come down to a simple statement: the primer is either compliant to a certain level or is not.
Items the CPR Does Not Cover
At a minimum, expect SCAQMD staff to consider items that are not regulated under the California Air Resource Board’s Consumer Product Rule (CPR), such as clear, paintable sealants and foam sealants (i.e., “foam in a can”). The increasing use of foam sealants in window installations makes these a prime category to examine, as increased use leads to increased potential impact on air quality. Clear, paintable sealants cannot be ignored because they belong to one of the few product categories that have no regulation in any VOC rule.
Primers vs. Cleaners
While most manufacturers are honest in categorizing products as cleaners (strictly prepping the surface for application of some product by removing material from it) vs. primers, not all are. In the effort to make a concise, tight and fair rule, expect SCAQMD staff to very poignantly define what constitutes each of these. While this is highly speculative, expect language involving solvent or cleanser presence in a cleaner, vs. film-forming, polymer-containing or other similar terms for a primer.
Rule 1168 is quite arguably among the most impactful rules in the adhesives and sealants industry. It is referenced in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and other green building systems and codes, sets a precedent for many other jurisdictional bodies, and has long been the standard VOC rule for sealants and adhesives. These rule changes will likely shape our future for years to come.

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