The government is expected to push ahead with rules to cap the level of smog-inducing chemicals in personal-care products, but to scrap an unpopular mandatory labelling scheme that was to have been introduced first. New regulations on volatile organic compounds (VOCs), part of cross-border efforts to reduce air pollution in the Pearl River Delta, will focus on products with the highest VOC levels, starting with hairspray. This is expected to lead to some goods being taken off shelves. The original plan had been to first require labelling of 40 categories of products, including perfumes and sprays, to show VOC content by weight. Mandatory limits were to have been introduced later. But the labelling plan caused an outcry, with the cosmetics industry saying it would push up costs by 30 per cent and put many small and medium-sized companies out of business. Officials and trade representatives have met several times to discuss the proposed rules. VOCs are mostly used as propellants and solvents in products such as air fresheners, insecticides and antiperspirants. 'The original, phased scheme is unrealistic, as it would have little impact on air quality,' an industry insider said. 'It would also cause confusion among importers ... We might prefer to regulate the content immediately.' Paul Leung Chung-leung, chairman of the Cosmetic and Perfumery Association of Hong Kong's regulatory committee, called the revised proposal 'acceptable and reasonable'. VOCs are one of four key air pollutants that Guangdong and Hong Kong agreed to slash under a 2002 deal. The agreement requires emissions to be cut by 55 per cent from their 1997 levels. So far, they have been cut by only 23 per cent. About 24 per cent of total VOC emissions come from consumer products. The VOC limit for hairspray is expected to be set at a stringent 55 per cent of weight, the same as that introduced by California - the first jurisdiction to introduce laws controlling the compounds in personal-care products. Limits for other products will be set later. The labelling scheme was to have been introduced next year, with the limits being phased in after 2007. It was not immediately clear when the revised plan would go into effect. An industry source expects some products from Japan and Europe may be affected by the rules, as those countries have no limits on products' VOC content. Under the previous plan, it would have been a criminal offence for importers or distributers to sell products that did not carry labels indicating VOC content. Each product would have had to be registered with the Environmental Protection Department and their VOC content ascertained by certified laboratories. Environment officials had hoped the labelling law would encourage people to buy less-polluting products before limits on use of the chemicals were introduced. The trade claims that perfume only accounts for 1 per cent of VOC emissions in the city.