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About VOC Paints
According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, but contrary to popular belief, all is not safe behind closed doors. Our health is compromised by constant exposure to indoor pollutants such as mold, dust mites, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
VOCs are solvents used in paint, adhesives, cleaning supplies and furnishings. VOC paints release toxic fumes into the air not just as the paint dries, but also for years after. We’ve all gotten a bit light headed upon entering a freshly painted room, but long-term side effects of VOC paints are far more severe than dizziness or a bad headache. The EPA suspects VOCs are carcinogenic. Fortunately, we now have alternatives to high-level VOC paints. Low VOC, zero VOC and natural paints are a better choice for cleaner air and healthier lungs.
Low VOC paints
The United States government maintains that flat finish paint cannot exceed 250 grams per liter of VOC and other finishes cannot exceed 380 grams per liter. However, paints that meet these standards are not necessarily low-VOC paints. Look for companies that follow standards set by California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District, which limits the VOC amount to 50 grams per liter no matter the paint finish.
The Greenguard Environmental Institute sets another standard for quality, offering a Green Seal Standard (GS-11) trust mark to paints with VOCs lower than 50 grams per liter for flat sheen finishes and 150 grams per liter for other finishes. Companies offering low VOC paints that meet these standards include Benjamin Moore Aura, True Value Easy Care and Glidden Evermore.
Zero VOC paints
The name is a little misleading, as all paints contain a certain amount of toxins. Zero VOC paints contain 5 grams per liter or less of VOCs. Once color is added to paint, however, the VOC amount can increase up to 10 grams per liter. To keep the VOCs low, two companies, Mythic and Freshaire Choice, only add color pigments that do not include VOCs to all of their finishes.
The safest and healthiest choice for you and the environment, natural paint comprises of natural materials such as plant oils, water, clay, talcum and beeswax. The smell is light and non-toxic and allergic reactions to natural paints are rare. Check out natural paint selections from companies such as Livos and Green Planet Paints.
Choosing a paint
When choosing a low-VOC, zero-VOC or natural paint, look for paints that are high in solids, as a higher concentration of solids means a lower concentration of VOCs. Look for the lowest percent of VOCs possible, within the range of 5 grams per liter. Paints labeled with an EPA, OHSA or DOT registration number are made up of toxic materials that require monitoring, so your safest bet is to choose a product that does not contain such a warning.