A website for Lakeland Paints, www.lakelandpaints.co.uk, seen on 1 September 2019, advertised a paint which it described as "Air Purifying Paint ... for superior Indoor Air Quality - filters out indoor air pollution including VOCs, diesel & petrol derived NOx". Further text stated "... simply apply as normal wall paint and when dry, it will filter out & absorb pollutants 24 hours a day all year round. Absorbs 98-99% of VOC volatile pollutants down to approx. one part per million (Gas chromatographic data) and around 98% of NOx from car, bus & truck engines, cookers, gas fires, etc".
IssueThe complainant challenged whether the claims that the paint, once dry on a wall, would: "filter out & absorb pollutants 24 hours a day all year round", "Absorbs 98-99% of VOC volatile pollutants down to approx. one part per million … and around 98% of NOx from car, bus & truck engines, cookers, gas fires etc" were misleading and could be substantiated.
Technical Specialities Ltd t/a Lakeland Paints thought that the claims were clear and simply explained so the average consumer would readily understand them. Lakeland Paints explained that the product was based on molecular sieve technology.
They submitted an external report which evaluated the effectiveness of ECOS Molecular Sieve Paint at removing volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) from the atmosphere. Two sets of VOCs were used: a mixture of various compounds and a separate formaldehyde test. A glass bottle painted with ECOS Molecular Sieve paint and an unpainted glass bottle were both tested with a microlitre of the VOC mixture over a 24-hour period. Three separate volumes of vapour were withdrawn and analysed.
The analysis of the residual vapour showed that the ECOS Molecular Sieve Paint’s absorption efficiency was 95% for the VOC mixture. A similar test was conducted with formaldehyde and showed an absorption efficiency of 98.3%. Lakeland Paints stated that they were unable to find a laboratory in the UK that offered nitrogen oxide (NOx) testing. They explained that their internal NOx testing used two containers to simulate a room space. One was plain and lidded whilst the other was painted and left unlidded with a valve to ensure a through draft. Lakeland Paints explained that the testing process involved applying the paint at the recommended coverage, allowing it to dry thoroughly and then testing the product at room temperature under the same conditions as a real-life situation.
Lakeland Paints stated that the test showed that the air-purifying paint reduced the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) level by 98% over a 24-hour period. Lakeland Paints added that they tarred and weighted the paint-filled tray, for NOx analysis, and the paintbrush/container, for VOCs and formaldehyde analysis, before, during and after application. The weight of paint used was calculated and divided by the density of the paint to the volume of the product used. They stated that the figure ensured that only the stated coverage rates were applied. Lakeland Paints also stated that it was nearly impossible to ensure that the concentrations of VOCs and NOx derived from diesel and petrol plus other pollutants, reflected how they would be found in real life for example, the levels differed depending on whether a room was next to a road or in the countryside.
The ASA considered that consumers would be likely to interpret the claims as their literal meaning, that the product would “filter out & absorb pollutants 24 hours a day all year round", "Absorbs 98-99% of VOC volatile pollutants down to approx. one part per million … and around 98% of NOx from car, bus & truck engines, cookers, gas fires etc". We therefore considered that Lakeland Paints should hold appropriate robust evidence to substantiate the claims.
The third-party testing information for VOCs concluded that the absorption efficiencies were 95% for mixed VOCs and 98.3% for formaldehyde. We therefore did not see evidence to support the claim that the product “Absorbs 98-99% of VOC volatile pollutants down to approx. one part per million". The evidence for VOC absorption testing was in relation to a paint product called “ECOS Molecular Sieve Paint” and it was unclear if that was the same product as advertised.
We only saw internal testing information in relation to the product’s absorption efficiency of NOx and did not see any testing from a third-party testing laboratory. We noted that Lakeland Paints had attempted to mimic real-life testing conditions such as temperature. However, Lakeland Paint’s response accepted that it was nearly impossible to reflect how the levels of NOx and other pollutants would appear in real life and that the list of possible VOCs was endless. Both the VOCs test and the internal NOx test were only conducted over a 24-hour time period and we did not see any evidence in relation to the long-term filtration ability of the paint.
As the testing was only conducted over a 24-hour period, we did not consider that the claim “filter out & absorb pollutants 24 hours a day all year round” was substantiated. Because we did not see adequate evidence to support the claims that the paint would "filter out & absorb pollutants 24 hours a day all year round" and "Absorbs 98-99% of VOC volatile pollutants down to approx. one part per million … and around 98% of NOx from car, bus & truck engines, cookers, gas fires etc", and in the absence of further evidence demonstrating that the product was able to function at the levels claimed, we concluded that the claims were likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
The ad should not appear again in the form complained about. We told Technical Specialities Ltd t/a Lakeland Paints to ensure in future that they held sufficient evidence to substantiate their claims.