The most common indicator of a traffic paint’s environmental impact is its volatile organic compound (VOC) content. VOCs in traffic and zone marking paints present human health risks and negative environmental impacts, including emitting smog-producing compounds. Solvents used in most traditional traffic paints are a major source of VOCs and known to cause cancer and/or reproductive toxicity. Safer solvent-based traffic paints typically contain acetone, a comparatively less toxic solvent. VOC content in traffic paint is now regulated at the federal, state, and local levels. The Federal government set a 150 grams per liter limit on VOCs in traffic paint. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) in southern California operates under the most stringent VOC regulations at 100 g/l. Other jurisdictions look to SCAQMD for leadership in environmental regulation. Specifying SCAQMD compliant traffic paint on your project is a good first step in ensuring sustainable traffic and zone marking products.
Faced with rising environmental concerns and increased regulations, traffic paint manufacturers have shifted to waterborne or exempt solvents in their traffic paint formulations. Initially, contractors and applicators were worried lowering VOC content would take the “good stuff” out of traffic paint. Fortunately, low VOC solvent and waterborne paints perform as well if not better than most traditional products.
The Master Painters Institute (MPI) certifies sustainable traffic paint under its Green Performance Standards (GPS 1 and 2). MPI’s certification criteria includes prohibitions on chemical components (toluene, lead, and ethyl benzene among others), VOC limits, and minimum performance requirements. To date, over 40 traffic paint products have been certified under GPS 1 and 2 standards. Most of these products have less than 100 g/l VOCs. Some of the products also meet TT-P-1952E federal standards for waterborne traffic and airfield marking paints and are fit for use on highways, roads, and airfield runways.
For organizations looking to take their sustainability initiatives to the next level, the United States Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program is a good place to start. Created by the 2002 Farm Bill and expanded under the 2014 Farm Bill, this program was implemented to reduce U.S. reliance on petroleum and drive demand for biobased products made from renewable agricultural resources. Traffic paint manufacturers took note, and formulated new sustainable traffic paints with high biobased content. One USDA Certified Biobased Traffic Paint, BioStripe, is specified in VOC restrictive parking lots for a major retailer due to its exceptional durability and colorfastness.
Is it time to restripe your roads or parking lot? Look to these resources to ensure you’re using a sustainable paint!