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Professional Detailing & the Environment

The International Detailing Association is dedicated to providing its members with information and resources dedicated to the detailing profession. Specifically, you will find information addressing the various environmental issues including the workplace. The association will continue to update and add to this information to keep our membership informed on changes in policy or legislation.

Information and resources below include:

NOTE: Most links on this page point to other hosts and locations in the Internet. This information is provided as a service; however, the IDA does not endorse, approve, or otherwise support these sites.


OSHA is the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation. This covers all aspects of the business, from electrical wiring to holes in the ground.

  • Additional Information on OSHA:
    • Did you know that the OSHA website has a reporting system that can be used by your employees or customers? It can be used to report hazards, or suspected hazards in your work place.
    • OSH Act 1970: To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the "Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970."

EPA leads the nation's environmental science, research, education, and assessment efforts. The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, the EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people. 

The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the cornerstone of surface water quality protection in the United States. 

Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The Proposition was intended by its authors to protect California citizens and the State's drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals. 

The Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) is a multi-state organization created under the Clean Air Act (CAA). It is responsible for advising EPA on transport issues and for developing and implementing regional solutions to the ground-level ozone problem in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

OTC brings together the states from Virginia to Maine to coordinate reductions in air pollution that benefit the whole region. It provides air pollution assessment, technical support, and a forum through which states can work together to harmonize their pollution reduction strategies.

OTC members include:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • the District of Columbia
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia

California's Legislature established the Air Resources Board (ARB) in 1967 to:

  • Attain and maintain healthy air quality.
  • Conduct research into the causes of and solutions to air pollution.
  • Systematically attack the serious problems caused by motor vehicles, which are a major cause of air pollution in the State.

The Midwest Regional Planning Organization (MRPO) is a multi-state organization made up of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois. Michigan and Ohio adopted the VOC regulations on January 1, 2009. Indiana joined them on July 1, 2009 and Illinois also followed some time in 2009. Wisconsin has not set a date yet.

Midwest Regional Planning Organization (MRPO) Members Include:

  • Michigan
  • Ohio
  • Indiana
  • Wisconsin
  • Illinois

Who is impacted by VOC Regulations? Everyone. 

Currently, California, OTC states and MRPO states have enacted VOC limits for various car care products. EU standards are discussed in the The Decopaint Directive (EU VOC)

Various ways of defining “VOC” have been assessed. Definitions based on Vapour Pressure (> 10 Pa at 20°C), Boiling Point (< 250°C or 280°C) or photochemical oxidant creation potential all have their own merits and supporters within the sector. A boiling point limit of 250°C excludes important coalescing solvents which have boiling points of > 250°C. The study team has chosen the following definition to cover all volatile organic compounds that are used in decorative paints: “VOC are all organic compounds used in paint or associated with the application of paints that have an initial boiling point of lower than 280°C."

The EU Definition of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

The term VOC is widely used in environmental and occupational health policy, but within the different policy areas the term VOC is not used unambiguously. Common descriptions refer to VOCs as being all “organic solvents” (and co-solvents), or use the term VOC to describe compounds with a specific vapor pressure, boiling point or POCP-value (Photochemical Oxidant Creation Potential). At least four different definitions are in use, which do not in every case describe the same group of chemicals. However, all of the definitions try to define the difference between volatile and nonvolatile compounds.


Four common definitions in use can be summarized as follows:

  • VOC are all organic compounds with a vapor pressure above 10 Pa at 20°C.
  • VOC are all organic compounds with an initial boiling point under 250°C at 1 atm.
  • VOC are all organic compounds with a POCP value.
  • VOC are all organic compounds used as solvents or co-solvents.
  • It is generally agreed that organic compounds are all compounds containing at least the element carbon and one or more of hydrogen, halogens, oxygen, sulphur, phosphorus, silicon or nitrogen, with the exception of carbon oxides and inorganic carbonates or bicarbonates.
  • Some definitions limit their scope to volatile organic compounds from an anthropogenic origin, excluding methane, to distinguish the anthropogenic emissions from the natural emissions from forests, in order to enable a source-oriented policy. Important differences arise especially in the area of low-volatility organic compounds. Using for example the vapor pressure approach (i.e. 10 Pa), certain low-volatility organic compounds are not considered to be a VOC, while the boiling point approach (250°C) in contrast may consider them as VOCs. Nevertheless, most solvents used in decorative coatings are covered by all four definitions. Even by using the least stringent definition for future legislation, the use of at least 90% of the evaporating organic compounds in paints will be restricted. However, driven by legislation and a growing environmental and (occupational) health awareness, the use of low-volatility organic compounds is increasing. Therefore, the simultaneous use of different definitions is confusing for paint formulators as well as for the users, and a choice for an unambiguous definition will have to be made.

Because the pollutants that lead to regional haze can originate from sources located across broad geographic areas, EPA has encouraged the States and Tribes across the U.S. to address visibility impairment from a regional perspective. Today, EPA provides funding to five regional planning organizations to address regional haze and related issues. These organizations will first evaluate technical information to better understand how their States and Tribes impact national park and wilderness areas (Class I areas) across the country, and they will then pursue the development of regional strategies to reduce emissions of particulate matter and other pollutants leading to regional haze.

Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP). The WRAP is the successor organization to the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission, which was formed in 1991 and issued recommendations to EPA in 1996 for improving the air quality in the 16 Class I areas on the Colorado Plateau. The Western States Air Resources Council (WESTAR) is working in cooperation with the WRAP. Nine WRAP states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming) now have the option of implementing many of the Commission's recommendations within the framework of the national regional haze rule.

Central Regional Air Planning Association (CENRAP). Affiliated with the Central States Air Resource Agencies (CENSARA). Includes nine states (Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana). 

Midwest Regional Planning Organization (Midwest RPO). Affiliated with the Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium (LADCO). Includes five states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin).

Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Visibility Union (MANE - VU). Includes 14 states and districts (Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Northern Virginia, and suburbs of Washington, D.C.). The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) and Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association (MARAMA) are working in cooperation with the OTC on regional haze issues.

The Visibility Improvement State and Tribal Association of the Southeast (VISTAS) is a collaborative effort of state governments, tribal governments, and various federal agencies established to initiate and coordinate activities associated with the management of regional haze, visibility, and other air quality issues in the Southeastern United States. Member States and Tribes include several states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.


The International Detailing Association has made every effort to provide links to information on a national and state level for the detailing professional as well as manufacturers and suppliers to the trade. We have also included information from international resources. Much of the information is based on related industries such as automotive paint and auto body services but we have made every attempt to only focus on the information necessary for our membership.

The information and resources above have been provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.


We are most concerned with the chemical products utilized in the industry and the following will address possible hazards posed by these essential components of the business, and in particular how to estimate the degree of hazard from an MSDS.

Before using ANY chemical product, request an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). These documents all follow a standard layout or pattern. The purpose of the MSDS is to enable the reader to use the product in a safe and responsible manner, minimizing exposure to both oneself and one's surroundings.

It is the responsibility of the owner to obtain the relevant MSDS and ensure that any employee coming into contact with that material appreciates all risks and hazards associated with it. It is not sufficient to simply hand off the MSDS and forget it, nor is it acceptable to collect MSDS and keep them neatly filed in a cabinet in the office. These are working documents.

Failure to communicate hazards or potential hazards is a major cause of legal action taken against detailing shops by OSHA inspectors. The OSHA website is the “Go To” place for information governing all aspects of health and safety in the workplace.

Ensure all employees and new hires are fully aware of not only your responsibility to provide a safe working environment, but also their responsibility to follow safe working practices.

An MSDS addresses the following points; these are listed in the same order on any USA safety data sheet:

This section will provide contact information, the product name, and possible applications for the product.

Information regarding individual components of the product will be listed here. If the ingredient is hazardous, this is where you will find information which will provide the name of the ingredient (be aware that it’s possible for one chemical to be referred to by several seemingly very different names), the CAS Number – this allows you to more accurately determine the identity of an ingredient if you don’t recognize the name; the OSHA PEL (Permissible Exposure Limits) – in general terms this is the maximum amount of airborne material a worker can be exposed to over an 8 hour day. Another exposure limit is commonly found here, this is the ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) TLV (Threshold Limiting Value). These are guidelines suggesting the levels of potentially hazardous materials a worker could be exposed to over a working day without unreasonable risk of injury.  It is permissible to include in this section any other relevant hazard information and the % of that ingredient present in the product.

Here we find measurable properties of the product, like Boiling Point, Specific Gravity, Appearance and Odor, solubility in water, pH, etc. 

From a detailing point of view, probably the most significant property here would be pH. This is a measure of the degree of acidity or alkalinity of a product. The pH range stretches from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral (pure water). The pH scale can only be used with water based products. A product with a pH in the 7-14 range would be classified as Alkaline – the bigger the number the more alkaline – the more alkaline the more aggressive or caustic. A product with a pH in the range 7 to 0 would be classified as Acidic – as the number gets smaller the greater the acidity – the greater the acidity the more aggressive. In general terms, the closer to neutral we can get the safer the product in terms of handling and exposure.

As the title suggests, the flammable properties of the product can be found here. The flash point of a product is the lowest temperature that a product will ignite when exposed to an ignition source (static discharge, electrical spark, or a naked flame are all possible sources, many more exist). A low flash point will ignite at a lower temperature than a high flash point material; therefore, higher=safer.

You will also find here the recommended medium for extinguishing a fire – use this information when choosing a fire extinguisher. Your local Fire Department will also appreciate this type of information.

This section sounds scary – uncontrolled chemical reactions, explosions, and mushroom clouds spring to mind. The information here will let you know what NOT to mix the product with, any hazardous material that may be produced under adverse conditions, and how not to use or store the product.

Here you will find very important information for the individual who may be using the product. The three routes of entry into the body are addressed: whether the compound can enter through ingestion (swallowing), through the skin (some solvents are especially hazardous by this route), or by inhalation (simply breathing the fumes).

Acute and Chronic hazards are listed – acute meaning the symptoms appear quickly, chronic meaning the symptoms develop over time. 

Whether or not the compound is classified as carcinogenic (cancer causing) will be found here; the authorities of NTP (National Toxicology Program), IARC (International Agency for research on Cancer), and OSHA are quoted along with the classification. A classification under this heading in auto detailing is almost unheard of.

This section also includes the signs and symptoms of exposure – again, it's important to familiarize yourself with these signs. Prevention is better than cure!

Medical conditions that can be aggravated by exposure to the compound – allows the user to take extra care or find an alternative if a listing here shows that use of the product may aggravate an existing condition.

Emergency First Aid Procedures: Extremely important information – what to do in case of an emergency – not only for the specific workplace, but also for any medical assistance sought because of that emergency.

This section outlines what to do if the material is spilled – what kind of actions should be taken? Learn how to dispose of waste or waste containing the product. Read about special precautions to be taken when handling or using the product (face masks, gloves etc), if a specific type of glove should be used, etc. If the product requires special storage conditions (highly flammable material for example), then this would also be noted in this section.

In addition to the above, many manufacturers will include shipping information and how the product is classified for transportation. If a particular state requires more, or different, information which may not be required by Federal Regulations, those details would be found here. California, for example, has its own classification and notification system for Carcinogens. While it would be possible to have an MSDS specific to a particular state, practicalities dictate that this is not feasible. 

What is important is that the sheet is read and understood – call the MSDS supplier if you need clarification. The people who produce these sheets are only too happy to find someone who has actually taken the time to read one!

Remember to keep a sense of proportion – it’s all too easy to read an MSDS and jump straight to a worst case scenario. The sheets are intended to enable a user to complete one's daily work in the safest possible manner – not to restrict or hamper an operation.

All the foregoing information is offered in good faith, but without any guarantee as to its accuracy.  We do not accept any responsibility for any problem arising from its use.  The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the IDA.

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