Decorators are to be banned from using high-gloss paint on houses and buildings from 2010 under a European Union directive to cut pollution

The law will limit the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are given off by glossy, solvent-borne paints when they dry. VOCs react with nitrogen oxide in still and sunny conditions contributing towards summer smog.

Paint manufacturers are trying to find ways to manufacture alternative glossy finishes by using water-based paints, which give off fewer VOCs.

Hugh Williams, technical manager of the British Coatings Federation said: “Solvent-borne paints will virtually disappear in 2010. It is important for specifiers to understand the changes.”

The UK has to reduce emissions of VOCs from paints and varnishes in two stages: on 1 January 2007 and 1 January 2010. Williams said that to achieve the first target “no giant technological leaps would be required”, but he predicted that the 2010 deadline, which has far stricter VOC emissions targets, would be more of a problem. “There will be a need for a technological change, which will more than likely lead to changes in application.”

Solvent-borne paints will be replaced by water-borne coatings, which do not have the same properties of solvent-borne paint. John Carlyle, technical manager at paint manufacturer Akzo Nobel said that there was still time to come up with comparable formulations to solvent-borne paint.

He said: “I anticipate modification rather than new technology. Our objective is to provide alternative and comparable finishes, which can be brushed, rolled or sprayed in the same way they are today.”

It is important for specifiers to understand the coming changes

Hugh Williams, BCF

Michel Lorenzo, a chemist at paint manufacturer Rohn and Haas, said that the gloss finish from water-borne paints was not as good as that from solvent-borne paints but this could change rapidly as scientists worked on improving the product.

He said: “The technology of acrylic binders is progressing rapidly and the gap between solvent and water-borne paints in terms of glossiness will be reduced by 2010.”

The VOC directive is being implemented in the UK through the VOCs in Paints, Varnishes and Vehicle Refinishing Products Regulations 2005. The regulations are in consultation at the moment, and will be in place by October.

The UK estimates that the cost of cutting emissions in paints, varnishes and car finishing products will be £3.86m for the first phase and £76.72m for the second phase. The EU says that these coatings are responsible for 4.2% of total VOC emissions.