Common household paints are often overlooked as environmental offenders. Did you know standard formulations can contain over 100 chemicals that are recognized toxins? And once paint has been applied, these chemicals can linger for months in indoor environments.
Luckily, there are healthier paint options available. Using zero-VOC paints or even low-VOC paints can help keep many of these toxins out of your home.
What is a VOC?
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, have long been recognized as one of the biggest problems with household paint. These compounds begin to evaporate when paint is applied, and once in the air, people breathe them in. VOCs have been linked to cancer, respiratory issues, and headaches.
Why are VOCs in paint in the first place? Essentially, these compounds are solvents that help to keep the color pigments and binders in paint in a liquid form until it’s applied to a wall or other surface. Once paint has been applied, VOCs evaporate so that the surface can dry. The smell that many people associate with new paint is actually the compounds being released into the air.
VOCs have a purpose, but are not the only way to allow new paint to dry. Many paint manufacturers now use alternatives to VOCs when creating paints. These low-VOC and no-VOC alternatives can be found alongside conventional paints.
Low-VOC paints use water-based solvents, which contain fewer VOCs, or alternative oil solvents. Most varieties have less than 200 grams of VOCs in a liter of paint.
Some environmental organizations offer low-VOC certifications. For instance, Green Seal certifies paint that has less than 50 grams of volatile organic compounds per liter as low-VOC paint.
Zero-VOC or No-VOC Paint
Zero-VOC paint is required to meet much stricter labeling standards than low-VOC paint. These paints have fewer than 5 grams of VOCs per liter of paint. Zero-VOC paint, also called no-VOC paint, relies on alternative solvents to keep paint from setting before it is applied to a wall.
Unlike conventional paint, zero-VOC paint does not have a fresh paint smell when wet. This is because the level of VOCs in the paint is so low that most people cannot smell them.
Have you used a low-VOC or zero-VOC paint or other environmentally friendly option? Let us know about your experience and any suggestions or tips to share.