ACA News

Find the latest ACA and industry news, covering government affairs activity, business, and technology news.

Media Statements

ACA Upholds the Efficacy of Antimicrobial Paints

Washington, D.C., May 20, 2019 — Northwestern University recently issued a press release based on the results of a study conducted by researchers at its McCormick School of Engineering (Hu, et al, 2019), titled “Impacts of Indoor Surface Finishes on Bacterial Viability.” Questions have been raised about the scientific statements made in the release, which asserted that “antimicrobial paints might do more harm than good.”

While the paper did note that “a non-pathogenic bacteria might form spores on a paint surface,” ACA finds the statement in the release to be a misrepresentation, since this is far from an indication of demonstrating potential harm.

The press release also states that “antimicrobial paints may prompt bacteria to develop more antibiotic resistance,” but a closer reading of the paper indicates that while the investigators specifically looked for antibiotic resistance they found no evidence. The paper states:

“In this particular case, the exposure to antimicrobial surfaces did not explicitly select for antimicrobial-resistant microbes…”

Further, the findings of the paper did not demonstrate increased resistance to either antibiotics or antimicrobials.

Finally, the press release stated that “bacillus is typically innocuous, but by attacking it, you might prompt it to develop more antibiotic resistance.” Again, such supposition is not supported by the paper, which clarifies that the observed evidence of “antibiotic resistance” in the study is simply related to the formation of spores, and no genetic determinants for antibiotic resistance associated were found in the (spore) genomes.

The subject of the underlying research study, namely the impacts of indoor surface finishes on bacterial viability in the indoor environment, is extremely important and has been the focus of considerable efforts on the part of product manufacturers, regulatory agencies and researchers around the world. Unfortunately, the press release highlighting the study does not clearly articulate the underlying findings of the research, creating potential for errant and inaccurate impressions.

ECHA’s Advisory Opinion on Titanium Dioxide

Washington, D.C., June 12, 2019 —  Titanium dioxide (TiO2), a commonly used white pigment in paints and a variety of other products, is under review to establish a possible hazard classification under the European Union’s (EU) Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation (CLP).  The CLP is an ongoing regulatory program to harmonize classifications of substances based on hazard properties (but does not consider risk of human exposure).  Classifications have implications across the EU for product labels, formulation restrictions and worker protection.

As part of this process, the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) issued an advisory opinion to the European Commission (EC) to classify TiO2 as a Category 2 (Animal Evidence) carcinogen via inhalation.  The detailed rationale for this advisory opinion will be released in a few months, after which the EC will then consider and issue a final approved hazard classification.  There is considerable industry concern that the basis for the opinion is flawed and does not inform on risk to humans. It is important to consider that the risks profiled are not attributable formulated products, like paint, where TiO2 dust is embedded in the mixture.

The American Coatings Association (ACA) believes that any evaluation of TiO2 hazards should be based on sound science.  ACA recently filed a brief with the World Trade Organization (WTO) stating that classification as a carcinogen is not warranted and could unnecessarily constrain or even eliminate certain products from international trade.  ACA coordinated its filing with the WTO through the U.S. Trade Representative, filing in conjunction with other trade associations.

ACA also supports the position of the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association (TDMA, see, which is heading the effort to advance sound science on the classification issue, working in concert with many downstream industries to ensure responsible use.

Recently Published Article in Science Journal

Article Published in Science Journal Presents Flawed Data Regarding VOC Emissions from Architectural Coatings

February 23, 2018 – The American Coatings Association (ACA)1 and members of the coatings industry find that the data and conclusions presented in the research article “Volatile Chemical Products Emerging as Largest Petrochemical Source of Urban Organic Emissions,” recently published in the journal Science, are deeply flawed with respect to architectural coatings (paints and coatings applied to buildings and other stationary structures).

While the authors recognized and accounted for transportation-related (motor vehicle) VOC emission reductions, they do not recognize or account for similar and significant VOC reductions in architectural coatings achieved through regulatory compliance and industry innovations. Regulations limiting the VOC content of architectural coatings were first adopted in Southern California in 1977, taking effect in 1978. During the 40 years since then, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has amended its Rule 1113 (Architectural Coatings) 30 times, drastically lowering VOC limits for paint and coatings, and colorants used to tint them.

The California Air Resources Board conducts periodic surveys of architectural coatings distributed in California. The latest published survey, covering architectural coatings distributed in 2005, contains data showing that the average actual VOC content of architectural coatings was 0.63 pound per gallon. Given the average weight per gallon as 10.5 pounds, we calculate that architectural coatings contained (on average) 6 percent organic solvent by weight.

And yet, the Supplementary Materials for the article identify the organic solvent content of architectural coatings (on page 25, Table S4) as 0.49 gram organic solvent per gram of coating, which is to say, 49 percent organic solvent by weight. This overstates the VOC content of architectural coatings by a factor of 8. Moreover, the SCAQMD, which collects data on architectural coatings sold in the District annually, has determined that VOC emissions from architectural coatings have decreased by 50 percent between 2008 and 2016. This reduces the average VOC content of architectural coatings to 3 percent organic solvent by weight – and expands the article’s degree of overstatement to a factor of 16.

Consequently, we believe that this gross overstatement of VOC content in architectural coatings invalidates the article’s conclusions and recommendations with respect to VOC emissions from architectural coatings. We also question whether the article’s estimates of VOC content in adhesives and other consumer products are anywhere near accurate, if the methodology used to develop those estimates was the same as that used for architectural coatings.

1 The American Coatings Association (ACA) is a voluntary, nonprofit trade association representing paint and coatings manufacturers, raw materials suppliers, distributors, and technical professionals. ACA serves as an advocate and ally for members on legislative, regulatory, and judicial matters. We also question whether the article’s estimates of VOC content in adhesives and other consumer products are anywhere near accurate, if the methodology used to develop those estimates was the same as that used for architectural coatings

Paint Industry Use of Biocides

Washington, D.C., Aug. 22, 2019 —  The term “biocides” has come to encompass a wide range of materials that control the growth of unwanted, deleterious microorganisms in the environment. Purification of drinking water sources, cleaning contaminated surfaces in our homes and offices, sanitizing dishes and cookware used in food preparation, sterilizing surgical instruments and treating serious wounds or simple cuts have all become part of the public trust, reinforcing the need for effective biocides to support public health, safety and environmental protection.

The expanding use of biocides in construction products, however, has resulted in increased scrutiny of their inherent safety. The paint and coatings industry acknowledges the need to maintain proper safeguards when using biocides; it has a long history of effective collaboration with government to protect public health and the environment, and ensure effective policies for biocide use that support continued availability under total control in hazardous materials after risk assessment.

Microbial attack (i.e., mold and mildew) on painted surfaces is a wide-ranging and universal concern that has resulted in a global, coordinated strategy to combat it. The participants in this effort include the companies that make biocides: paint manufacturers that add biocides to their products; users of paints containing biocides that have come to expect the efficacy of these products to protect the painted surface and maintain desired conditions; and the government agencies charged with protecting public health and the environment that provide oversight and continued scrutiny of the safety and effectiveness of biocidal product use in paints and coatings.

The impact of microbial growth is not limited to degradation of applied paint films; it also occurs during production and storage of paints and coatings. Increasingly, paint producers have embraced waterborne technology, using formulations that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and other hazardous materials with lower emissions during application and drying. As with most waterborne products, paints require the use of “in-can” preservatives to protect them from spoilage. Without these biocides, waterborne paints would fail in storage, first losing their viscosity, then progressing to malodor, before ultimately a complete product breakdown. In extreme cases, the microbial decomposition can generate gases that rupture the container.

The importance of biocide use for in-can preservation and microbial attacks cannot be understated. It is a fact that over the past 75 years, market growth and public acceptance of waterborne paints and coatings has only been possible with the use of biocides. Manufacturer efforts to protect waterborne paints from microbial growth have enhanced plant hygiene and developed work practice controls that ensure product integrity throughout the supply chain. These efforts are part of a holistic approach to microbial control that ensures protection, but also optimizes the use of biocides to a level that is necessary to do the job.

Regulatory agencies around the world acknowledge the need for effective biocides to use in formulating paints and coatings, and a variety of legal constructs exist whereby manufactures of biocides provide detailed information on product safety and toxicology, efficacy in microbial control, and required formulation and use controls. This information is used by government scientists to determine if the proposed biocide can be safely used. The review process is open to comment from interested parties and additional expressed concerns are addressed. The rigor and thoroughness of these regulatory processes has resulted in a limited number of approved biocides being deemed safe, and therefore available for use by industry.

Additional specialized uses of biocides in certain paints and coatings are critical to protection of the substrates on which they are applied. Wood preservative materials are used to suspend the growth of microorganisms and other lifeforms that are associated with the destruction of wood and wood structures. Marine and offshore protective coatings are used to reduce the growth of marine microorganisms and associated biofilms that degrade vessels and steel structures, and slow their propulsion through the water. These coatings also reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gasses from vessels. Both uses are highly regulated and face increased and stringent regulatory controls whereby end users, paint manufacturers, and the producers of the biocides (i.e., active ingredients) work closely with government agencies to ensure safe use. This supports new ideas that help advance consumer protection and reinforce safe use of biocides in paints and coatings.

Helpful Resources

Latex allergies and latex paint

Does latex paint pose a threat to those who suffer from latex allergies?

No, latex paint is note made with latex rubber; in fact, “latex” is really just a decorative way describe rubber-based paint. Latex paint is a carefully formulated polyvinyl material with acrylic resin and has never contained natural rubber. It is a natural rubber that causes an allergic reaction, so people who have sensitivity to latex products are in no danger of having a reaction to latex paint.

Meaning of VOC's in paint

What does ‘VOCs’ in paint mean?

Consumers now have more choices than ever when making a decision to buy paint, including many environmentally conscious paints and coatings. Driven by regulatory and market demand, the U.S. paint and coatings industry has responded by producing a broad range of offerings that deliver excellent quality while minimizing the environmental impact, for safe use by consumers.

Among the products considered to be more environmentally responsible paint, the term “Low-VOC” is often used.

But what’s a VOC, anyway?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are organic chemical compounds whose composition makes it possible for them to evaporate under normal indoor atmospheric conditions of temperature and pressure.” Broken down, “volatile” describes a liquid that evaporates at room temperature, and the word “organic” means it is a compound that contains carbon. Some VOCs react in the atmosphere with oxides of nitrogen in the presence of sunlight to form ozone, a precursor to smog.

It is important to realize that there are thousands of different VOCs found in the air — many emitted from natural sources including trees and vegetation, and some man-made sources such as motor vehicle exhaust, unburned gasoline, and solvents found in air fresheners, markers, furniture, carpets, printers, and paints.

In paints and coatings, VOCs are used as solvents or thinners that work with the resin — the part that binds together all the ingredients of the paint and sticks them onto the wall or surface — to achieve excellent performance and durability. These organic solvents facilitate the paint’s application, drying, and the formation of a regular paint film. If paints were just water and resins, they would streak down a wall when applied and create lapping.

Today’s consumer paints and coatings are formulated and manufactured with safety and the environment in mind, and they conform to strict regulations in order to make it to market. Regulatory environmental and occupational health constraints on the composition of paints and coatings have resulted in wholesale technology shifts, from typical “solvent-borne,” or “oil-based” paints to waterborne, coatings products. In fact, this is particularly notable in the architectural coatings market where some 83 percent of sales are for environmentally preferable water-based paint. At the same time, many of these alternate technologies still need to be formulated with some solvent or VOC content to ensure that they deliver quality and high performance. In addition, many regulatory agencies have acknowledged that certain VOCs do not contribute to ozone formation and the degradation of ambient air quality. Industry use of these “exempt solvents” has been allowed, but the nature and extent of use is being carefully monitored by regulatory agencies.

Environmentally friendly paints on the market are specifically important for use around sensitive populations — in nurseries and hospitals — and many are low-odor, too. Keep in mind that odor is not a barometer for safety — there are many chemicals that cannot be detected by smell, but are toxic, and some that have an odor that aren’t toxic.

All consumer paints on the market are safe to use, but as with anything, the best way to ensure a safe paint job is ALWAYS read the product label, which offers appropriate precautions and guidance on ways to protect yourself during use. Manufacturers are required to list certain ingredients and use warnings, so follow the label instructions, including the following:

  • Always ensure adequate ventilation of the painted space, both DURING and AFTER application—open windows and doors wherever possible.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment—this is particularly important if you are sanding or scraping a space before a paint job.
  • Buy only what you need to for your paint job to minimize waste and prevent unnecessary disposal.
Renovation safety & lead-based paint

To safely renovate homes that contain lead-based paint, please consult joint guidance issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Product Safety Commission: Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home


What to do with leftover paint

Many people have leftover paint because it’s not easy to know how much paint to purchase in the first place. PaintCare is an ACA initiative, that plans and operates paint stewardship programs in U.S. states to manage leftover paint for reuse, recycling, energy recovery, or safe disposal. Use the PaintCare drop-off site locator to see where you can drop off your leftover paint; and view tips to help in every step of the process to paint smarter, including figuring out how much paint to buy; proper storage to make paint last longer in storage; ideas for using it up; and more!

ACA Publications

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Lisa Warren Román

Danielle Chalom

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