Product Emissions Considered in Singapore


The Singapore Government is considering issuing limits on formaldehyde emissions in building products and household furnishings. Formaldehyde is commonly found in adhesives, composite wood and paint.

Singapore Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu shared last week that these “serious” considerations for change are a result of recommendations made to the government by industry leaders.

Regulation Proposal

According to reports, the recommendations presented were previously developed in consultation with industry stakeholders after COVID-19 witnessed an uptick in cases linked to poor ventilation and poor air quality.

The mission to bring these guidelines to fruition was then backed by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) and Singapore Green Building Council.

In November 2021, the group initiated the Alliance for Action on Sustainable Spaces with the goal of ensuring that air breathed indoors is cleaner and greener than what current standards allow.

If approved, new regulations would require companies to submit test reports for all products that contain formaldehyde to obtain certification before a sale. The companies would also be required to provide proof that the goods sold meet emissions limits.

Additional recommendations have suggested incentivizing the industry to create and adopt low-emitting products, as well as foster greater industry-public collaboration.

During the official launch of guidelines and recommendations by the Alliance, which was held earlier this month, it was shared that people spend about 90% of time indoors and poor indoor air quality poses a health risk.

However, before the Government can accept or adopt the proposed guidelines, it will first need to consider criteria, including the level at which emissions should be considered harmful and what parties should be regulated.

“Regulation doesn’t ensure that standards are followed all the time; we need to follow up with inspection and enforcement,” said Fu. “So we have to think through all levers for policymaking before we can arrive at a decision, but this is something we are seriously looking at.”

Once enforcement plans are outlined, the guidelines for emission limits would be used for products and indoor furnishings, keeping local standards for good indoor air quality, acquiring certifications that recognize efforts to maintain good indoor air quality, implementing workplace safety and health guidelines and monitoring indoor air quality.

“These new industry guidelines would mean the public and consumers will be able to enjoy cleaner and greener urban indoor spaces in future,” said SFIC president Phua Boon Huat. “Moving forward, we would like to advocate for industry players to opt for cleaner, safer materials in their offerings and designs.”

The Alliance is reportedly supported by the Building and Construction Authority and National Environment Agency. Its mission is aiming to both help the industry seize opportunities in the green economy and support the Singapore Green Plan 2030.

Emissions Elsewhere

In July 2022, the Canadian government published a renewed version of its Federal Agenda regarding volatile organic compound (VOC) controls on industry products, signaling the country’s intent to take additional action between 2022 and 2030.

With Part 1, Volume 156, Number 28 published in Canada Gazette, the “Federal Agenda for the Reduction of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Emissions from Consumer and Commercial Products” aims to protect public health and the environment from the impacts of air pollution.

To further align with the United States, the Canadian government intends to proceed with the development of control instruments. Among a list of action items in the renewed agenda are the following:

  • Amending current regulations targeting VOCs in architectural coatings based on the Ozone Transport Commission’s (OTC) Phase II Model Rule for AIM;
  • Amending current regulations targeting VOCs in automotive refinishing products based on the OTC Phase II Model Rule for Auto-refinish;
  • Developing regulations covering VOCs in industrial and commercial adhesives and sealants based on the OTC Model Rule for Industrial Adhesives & Sealants (and may consider some elements of the California South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Rule 1168); and
  • Developing a non-regulatory risk management instrument targeting VOC emissions from printing on plastic packaging.

According to reports, stakeholders and interested parties will have multiple opportunities to provide input to help inform the federal government’s actions toward further reducing VOC emissions related to consumer and commercial products.

The American Coatings Association also noted it will follow the lead of the Canadian Paint and Coatings Association (CPCA), which is coordinating industry engagement with the Canadian regulatory authorities on this agenda.

In March, to mitigate greenwash claims in the industry, members of the British Coatings Federation first announced the adoption of the statement “Trace” VOC to improve communication to consumers highlighting which products have the lowest levels of VOCs.

VOCs, also known as solvents, are found in varying levels in different paint and coatings formulations. While many decorative paint manufacturers have switched to more water-based products (84%)—which reduces the presence of VOCs to low or very low—the use of solvents still contributes to atmospheric pollution

It is for this reason that the industry continues to be committed to reducing the level of solvent in paints.

At the time, as the license holders of the industry-wide standard VOC Globe scheme, BCF announced it would be promoting the new “Trace” globe in the coming months as an alternative to “Zero VOCs.” BCF noted that the new guide aligns with the CMA’s Green Claims Code and focuses on six principles that are based on existing consumer law and make clear that businesses “must not omit or hide important information” and “must consider the full life cycle of the product.”

The need for clarification arose as a result of the use of the terms “Zero-VOC” and “VOC-free,” which the BCF reports are false claims and therefore, should not be used in the paint industry. According to BCF, there will always be a trace element of VOCs, even if no raw materials containing VOCs have been added.

There are many areas throughout the process of creating a coating where VOCs could be added, from the water containing trace amounts of VOC, to raw materials that naturally contain VOCs and other processes that introduce VOCs, such as washing raw materials.

Due to these instances, the BCF felt that it was impossible to ensure that every batch of paint is completely free of VOCs because of the potential for trace solvents to be introduced at any point throughout the supply chain.

In May, the BCF reported that the new “Trace” Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) Globe scheme would allow decorative paint manufacturers to adopt the use of the statement to improve communication with consumers.

Since outlining the aforementioned issues, paired with industry greenwashing, the BCF reports that the Trace VOC Globe scheme will help to better raise consumer awareness of the number of VOCs contained in decorative paint products, thus allowing consumers to make more informed, green choices.

According to BCF, Trace globe will be used for products with VOC content of less than 0.1%. Greater involvement from paint manufacturers in the scheme will also greatly help paint recyclers separate solvent-based and water-based leftover paint with ease, which aids reuse and recycling.


Tagged categories: Adhesive; Air quality; AS; Asia Pacific; Coating Materials - Commercial; Coatings; Emissions; Good Technical Practice; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Indoor air quality; Paint; Quality Control; Safety; Wallcovering adhesives

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