As responsible adhesive manufacturers strive to develop cleaner indoor air quality products, they must at the same time give equal attention to delivering the same level of adhesive performance found in solvent-containing formulations.
A number of approaches have been taken in producing new, low-VOC formulations. It is important for specifiers, however, to understand these new products, as well as their performance claims.
No product is "Zero-VOC." All floor covering adhesives contain some measure of VOCs for effective performance. It is the level of VOCs, however, that should be addressed in determining a product's safety.
Most adhesive manufacturers have turned to solvent-free, water-based products to combat the VOC problem. But just as solvent-containing adhesives cure through the evaporation of solvents and water, water-based adhesives cure through water evaporation. This evaporation also emits VOCs, although at a lower level than solvent-containing products.
Other manufacturers are using alternatives such as vinyl polymers and 100 percent solids systems, including polyurethane or epoxy-based formulas, to move from traditional solvent-containing adhesives.
No matter the manufacturing method used, specifiers and installers should check the VOC level of each product for low-VOC compliance. Those products with VOC levels falling below Southern California's limit may be considered safe for use.