Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources


Air management Volatile organic compounds

A VOC or volatile organic compound emissions source is a unit that uses paints, inks, lacquers, adhesives, other coatings, clean up solvents or other solvents or materials that contain VOCs or create emissions of VOCs. Some examples of VOC sources include wood coating, metal part painting, plastic part coating, fabric coating, cabinet/countertop lamination, furniture coating, printing presses, screen printing units, and autobody repair shops.

You need to determine if you are exempt

Under the general exemptions, you will need to do more detailed calculations to determine if you are exempt. For the volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions source types listed below, the calculations are very much alike no matter what type of VOC source you are proposing to add or expand.


  • Use adhesives, coatings, paints, inks, other solvents or solvent containing materials
  • Automobile refinishing operations
  • Painting or coating operations
  • Graphic arts operation
  • Storage tanks - Organic C=compounds
  • Storage tanks - Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Bulk gasoline plants
  • Cold cleaning equipment
  • Batch cold cleaning equipment
  • Open top vapor degreasing equipment
  • Batch open top vapor degreasing equipment
  • Conveyorized non-vapor degreasing and conveyorized vapor degreasing equipment
  • Perchloroethylene dry cleaning area sources
  • Private alcohol fuel production systems
  • Soil or water remediation

For example, if you have painting / coating or graphic arts (printing) associated with your business, you would first gather information about the maximum coating rate for your paint/coating applicator, the maximum printing capacity of your press, or the maximum amount of solvent you might use and any applicable Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the materials.

Some of these processes have information available either from EPA's emission factors site [exit DNR] or from state fact sheets. Please review the following fact sheets to assist you in determining if you are exempt:


Graphic arts (printing)

Storage tanks

For emissions related to tanks for the purposes listed above, please review the following EPA web page which uses chemical, meteorological, roof fitting, and rim seal data to generate emissions estimates for several types of storage tanks.

Solvent cleaning (cold cleaning, degreasing, etc.)

Hazardous air pollutant guidance

These processes will also have hazardous air pollutant emissions. There is a section on MSDS that lists hazardous contents—pay attention to those chemicals as well as VOC content of the materials. Please review the following guidance on hazardous air pollutant emission calculations:

  • Air toxics and mercury — Information about hazardous air pollutants and state regulations.
  • Combined chemical table spreadsheet tool for Wisconsin air toxics rule — An interactive Excel spreadsheet that can show you the thresholds in the state rule for each of the HAPs that you emit. Just place an X in the Select column, then choose the X option from the drop down menu in the top row of that column, and only the information on your HAPs should be shown. Save it to your own computer as soon as the file opens.

Comparing your emission rate to the general exemption rate

If the calculations you performed here are the only ones at your facility for the specified pollutant, then you can compare the emissions rate for that pollutant with the general exemption levels to see if you are exempt so far. (If you only have these types of VOC emissions sources, then you can compare your total calculated emission rate for VOCs with the general exemption level of 5.7 lb/hr of VOCs. If your calculated emission rate is below the exemption level, then so far so good. You will need to check the emission for other pollutants before determining if the whole construction project is exempt.)