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Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are air pollutants which can have detrimental effects on human health by contributing to respiratory illnesses, and some VOCs are mutagenic or toxic to reproduction and harmful to the unborn. They also have harmful environmental effects (crop, vegetation and materials damage, reduced visibility) when they chemically interact with oxides of nitrogen and sunlight to form ground-level ozone.

Sources of VOCs include vehicle emissions, fuel combustion and domestic solvent usage. Other major sources of VOCs include commercial and industrial activities using organic solvents.

Emissions of VOCs are also addressed by the EU Directive on National Emission Ceilings (2001/81/EC).  Please see the section on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution for more details.

Installations and Activites using Organic Solvents

The European Union (Installations and Activities Using Organic Solvents) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 565 of 2012) (pdf, 347kb)  transpose Chapter V and Annex VII of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) 2010/75/EU. Chapter V of the IED sets out special provisions for installations and activities using organic solvents.  The regulations revoke and replace the previous Solvents Regulations (S.I. No. 543 of 2002).

The regulations apply to dry cleaners and other sectoral activities listed in Schedule 1 where the solvent consumption is within or above the thresholds specified in Schedule 2.  

Decorative Paints , Varnishes and Vehicle Refinishing

The European Union (Paints, Varnishes, Vehicle Refinishing Products and Activities) Regulations 2012 (S.I.No  564 of 2012) (pdf, 245kb) re-transpose Directive 2004/42/CE on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) due to the use of organic solvents in certain paints and varnishes and vehicle refinishing products. The regulations revoke and replace the previous Decorative Paints Regulations (S.I. No. 199 of 2007).

Paints, varnishes and vehicle refinishing products listed in Schedule 1 of these regulations can be placed on the market only if their VOC content limit values are equal to or lower than the values specified in Schedule 2.  Local authorities have the power to seize prohibited paints, varnishes and vehicle refinishing products and the cost for disposal of such products can be charged to the person or body from whom they were seized


Certification of Solvents Installations and Vehicle Refinishing Installations

S.I. Nos. 564 and 565 of 2012 oblige operators of installations using organic solvents and vehicle refinishing installations to hold a current certificate of compliance from their local authority.  It is an offence to operate a solvents installation or vehicle refinishing installation without holding a current certificate of compliance. The regulations provide for fines of up to 5,000 euro on summary conviction.

In order to acquire a certificate of compliance, an installation must first arrange and undergo an inspection by an approved assessor who has been appointed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This replaces the requirement under the previous regulations for inspections to be carried out by an accredited inspection contractor (AIC). The EPA will establish a national panel of approved assessors by 30 September 2013. Further updates on the development of the panel of approved assessors will be publicised via the EPA websites for these regulations at and . This panel will then be reviewed at least every 3 years. An interim approved assessor will be appointed by the Agency until the establishment of the national panel.

Following the inspection of an installation, the approved assessor shall determine its compliance and prepare a report. The operator then submits their application for certification to the local authority together with the report of the approved assessor and an application fee (70 euro for first time certification and 50 euro for renewal of an existing certificate). The local authority must then decide, within 28 days, whether or not to issue a certificate of compliance.  Certified operators will be listed on the local authority website.

Certificates of compliance may be issued for a period of up to 3 years however local authorities have discretion to issue certificates of a shorter duration. Certificates of a shorter duration may be issued if an operator has a history of non-compliance or has allowed their previous certificate to expire without being renewed. Local authorities may apply conditions when issuing a certificate.

Operators are required to submit information annually to their local authority, or when otherwise requested, to report on their compliance with the regulations. It is an offence for an operator to knowingly provide false information.

Specific provision is included in the regulations for a local authority to revoke a certificate of compliance where they have reasonable grounds to do so.

Certificates issued under the previous regulations that were valid on 31 December 2012 may be renewed, at the discretion of the local authority, to be valid up to 30 September 2016. Operators are not permitted to allow their certification to lapse pending the establishment by the EPA of a national panel of approved assessors.


Stage II Petrol Vapour Recovery during Refuelling of Motor Vehicles at Service Stations


European Union (Stage II Petrol Vapour Recovery during Refuelling of Motor Vehicles at Service Stations) Regulations 2011, (S.I.No 687 of 2011), were signed on 21st December 2011.

These Regulations introduce measures aimed at reducing the amount of petrol vapour emitted to the atmosphere during the refuelling of motor vehicles at service stations and transpose Directive 2009/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009, on Stage II petrol vapour recovery during refuelling of motor vehicles at service stations.

The objective of Directive 2009/126/EC is to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) into the atmosphere from vehicle re-fuelling activities at service stations, in order to reduce the adverse impact of VOC on human health and the environment. 

A consultation paper was prepared to assist in the consultation process.

Consultation Paper on the Introduction of Stage II Petrol Vapour Recovery during Refuelling of Motor Vehicles at Service Stations (pdf, 541kb)

In addition the following Regulatory Impact Assessment was prepared:

RIA - Stage II Petrol Vapour Recovery During Refuelling of Passenger Cars at Service Stations (doc, 380kb)

On 25 September 2013, the European Committee for Standardization  (CEN ) published  Standards EN16321-1:2013 and EN 16321-2:2013.  Standard EN 16321-1:2013 specifies the test methods for the type approval of petrol vapour recovery systems for use in service stations.  Standard EN 16321-2:2013 specifies the test methods to be used at service stations to verify the operation of such vapour recovery systems.  Standards are available directly from CEN (external link) 

The Commission will shortly publish a new amending directive to the Stage II Petrol Vapour Recovery Directive 2009/126/EC to ensure consistency with these new standards. 



Further Information 

Air Quality and Environmental Radiation Section,
Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government,
Newtown Rd,

Telephone +353 (0)53 911 7351
Fax.          +353 (0)53 911 7603

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