The regulations were brought in on Tuesday, November 1 under the Paints Directive but producers have been given until January 2007 to make the first wave of reductions, with more stringent restrictions planned for 2010.

Fumes from solvents not only cause a range of health problems to those inhaling them but also contribute to summer smogs and damage trees, crops and other vegetation.

The measures being brought in will help to achieve an estimated 280 kilotonne reduction in volatile organic compounds by 2010 across Europe, equivalent of 59% of the current emissions from paint.

The regulations will also affect spray paint, such as that used by the motor industry.

While making reductions compulsory will force larger, mainstream paint manufacturers to be more environmentally friendly, specialists already established in the sector have welcomed the changes and say the competition will do them no harm.

“It’s a good thing,” Ian West, technical director for Lancashire-based Ecos Organic Paints told edie.

“Even though it might have a slight impact on our sales we can’t really knock it.

“What you find is that the industry is already doing this of its own volition, because there is a growing public pressure for more eco-friendly products.

“You just have to look at the success of organic food and more recently organic cotton and even cosmetics.

“People want to be able to buy healthier, more environmentally friendly things.”

Many paint manufacturers in the UK have already been leading the way in achieving voluntary reductions of these fumes and the new measures will ensure these high standards are met across the whole of the industry.

“These regulations will just speed things up a bit, sometimes it takes legislation to move things along,” said Mr West.

He said specialist paint companies like Ecos were unlikely to feel too tight a pinch from other producers being forced to clean up their act, as there was a separate market for low solvent and no solvent paints.

“There are many innovative products that the majors wouldn’t be interested in,” he told edie.

“You can already buy very low solvent paint, but that hasn’t affected us too much.”

By Sam Bond

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