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China wants to alter national guidelines for hazardous substance content in building coatings

On April 8, 2024, China’s Industry and Information Technology announced a plan to revise the country’s mandatory national standards that set limits on hazardous substance content in coating materials used for buildings.

More specifically, it plans to combine the currently implemented two standards into a new one titled the “Limit of Harmful Substances of Coating Materials Part 1: Architectural Coatings”. The present standards are the “Limit of Harmful Substances of Architectural Wall Coatings” (GB 18582-2020) and “Limit of Harmful Substances of Interior Floor Coatings” (GB 38468-2019).

It is expected to take 12 months to prepare a draft of the revised standard. Here is an overview of the planned revision.

Scope of the standard

The revised standard would apply to wall coatings and other auxiliary materials for buildings that are applied, on-site or in factories, to interior and exterior building surfaces based on cement-based materials or other nonmetal materials other than wood-based materials for decoration, protection or other special functions, including mildew resistance, algae resistance and insulation.

It would also apply to interior floor coatings and other auxiliary materials applied to floor surfaces made of materials such as cement mortar, concrete, stone, plastic and steel for decoration, protection or other special functions, including antistatic, corrosion resistance and anti-slip.

Limits on hazardous substance content

The revised standard would set limits on the concentrations of substances in coatings including the following:

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs)
  • Formaldehyde
  • BTEX
  • Total heavy metals
  • Soluble heavy metals
  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs)
  • Biocides
  • Total of glycol ethers and glycol ether esters
  • Total halogenated hydrocarbons
  • Phthalates
  • Total free diisocyanates (TDI and HDI)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Free 4,4′-methylenedianiline (MDA)

Changes planned in the revised standard

  • Coverage of outdoor floor coatings and building coating auxiliary materials by the standard
  • Limit on total lead content in floor coatings
  • Limits and test methods for SVOCs content in wall coatings, water-based floor coatings and polymer-cement composite floor coatings
  • Limits on nonylphenol and octylphenol content in water-based wall coatings and auxiliary materials (pigment pastes)
  • Limits and test methods for diuron and other banned biocides content in water-based coatings
  • Limit and test method for free MDA content in epoxy coatings for interior floors
  • Limits and test methods for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons content in solvent-based and solvent-free floor coatings

Points of the revision plan

Here are some points of the revision plan stated in the explanatory document to the plan:

  • SVOCs in wall coatings and water-based interior floor coatings should be regulated.
  • GB 38468-2019 currently does not cover outdoor floor coatings.
  • Free MDA in epoxy coatings for interior floors should be regulated.
  • Nonylphenol needs to be regulated in relation to APEOs, which are regulated as hazardous substances in building coatings, according to the List of New Pollutants Under Special Oversight1 published in December 2022.
  • Lead content in coatings that come in close contact with the human body should have the same limit as lead content in toy coatings in the U.S. (90 mg/kg).