Update: Washington State PCB Prohibitions for Paints under Safer Products Program


On June 1, the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) hosted a webinar, during which it provided an update on its efforts to identify safer alternatives to potential inadvertent Polychlorinated biphenyls (iPCBs) found in paints. Washington DOE shared findings on feasible and available alternatives and outlined  potential PCB restrictions on paint, including for architectural wall coatings, spray paints, traffic paints and children’s art paints.

Additionally, Washington DOE provided information on testing completed on paints. Washington DOE suggested that approximately 90% of the coatings it tested for PCBs were below 25 parts per billion (ppb) and 80% below 10 ppb. The department also  suggested that a possible future prohibition level could be based on either the 10 ppb or 25 ppb levels.

Washington DOE is scheduled to propose its decision on whether to prohibit PCB levels in paint in October 2021. The department will report back to the state legislature any proposed regulatory actions on June 1, 2022, and adopt any such regulations by June 1, 2023.


In 2019, the Washington State Legislature directed DOE to implement a regulatory program to reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products (Chapter 70.365 RCW), known as the “Safer Products for Washington.”

The legislature identified five priority chemical classes: flame retardants; Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS); Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); Phenolic compounds; and Phthalates. The law requires Ecology to identify priority consumer products that are significant sources or uses of the chemical classes.

Chapter 70.365 Revised Code of Washington creates a process for the state Department of Ecology (DOE), in consultation with the state Department of Health, to regulate classes of chemicals in consumer products. The law requires DOE to designate priority chemical classes, identify products that contain these chemicals, determine regulatory actions, and adopt rules to implement regulatory actions.

As it relates to the coatings industry, in September 2019, DOE identified Food cans (bisphenols) and Paints (PCBs). Ecology released a report that provides further details on the program. PCBs have historically been used in a wide range of products, such as electronic equipment and carbon copy paper.

In May 2020, the department added Paints to the list of priority consumer products under the “Safer Products for Washington” program. DOE cited concerns over iPCBs as the reasoning.

Inadvertent PCBs (iPCBs) are PCBs that are not intentionally added to products, but are instead produced as an unintended byproduct of the manufacturing process. Certain pigments/colorants including diarylide yellows, phlthalocyanine greens/blues and possibly some titanium dioxides may contain low concentrations of iPCBs.

There are concerns that iPCBs have the potential to bioaccumulate to harmful concentrations in aquatic animals and fish which could lead to human dietary exposure.

ACA’s Product Stewardship Committee and PCB Workgroup are monitoring this issue and are engaged with Washington DOE. ACA members, please contact David Darling if you would like to join to the PCB Workgroup.

Contact ACA’s David Darling for more information.

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