Indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air, and according to the EPA, is considered one of the top 5 hazards to human health. Paints and finishes are among the leading causes.
Paints and finishes release low level toxic emissions into the air for years after application. The source of these toxins is a variey of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which, until recently, were essential to the performance of the paint.
New environmental regulations, and consumer demand, have led to the development of low-VOC and zero-VOC paints and finishes. Most paint manufacturers now produce one or more non-VOC variety of paint. These new paints are durable, cost-effective and less harmful to human and environmental health.
The main goal in paints is to reduce the toxins through the use of low-VOC and zero-VOC paints and finishes. The benefits include:
- Health: Reduced toxins benefit everyone, including those with allergies and chemical sensitivities.
- Environment: Reduces landfill, groundwater and ozone depleting contaminants.
- Effective: Low-VOC products perform well in terms of coverage, scrubability and hideability (covering flaws on previous coats).
- Water-Based: Easy cleanup wtih soap and warm water.
- Little or No Hazardous Fumes: Low odor during application; no odor once cured. No off-gassing. Painted areas can be occupied sooner, with no odor complaints.
- Not Deemed Hazardous Waste: Cleanup and disposal greatly simplified.
Types of Non-Toxins Paints
- Natural Paints & Finishes - These are paints made from natural raw ingredients such as water, plant oils and resins, plant dyes and essential oils; natural minerals such as clay, chalk and talcum; milk casein, natural latex, bees' wax, earth and mineral dyes. Water-based natural paints give off almost no smell. The oil-based natural paints usually have a pleasant fragrance of citrus or essential oils. Allergies and sensitivities to these paints is uncommon. These paints are the safest for your health and for the environment.
- Zero VOC - Any paint with VOC's in the range of 5 grams/litre or less can be called "Zero VOC", according to the EPA Reference Test Method 24. Some manufacturers may claim "Zero-VOC's", but these paints may still use colorants, biocides and fungicides with some VOC's.
Adding a color tint usually brings the VOC level up to 10 grams/liter, which is still quite low.
- Low VOC - Low VOC paints, stains and varnishes use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents. As such, the levels of harmful emissions are lower than solvent-borne surface coatings. These certified coatings also contain no, or very low levels, of heavy metals and formaldehyde. The amount of VOC's varies among different "low-VOC" products, and is listed on the paint can or MSDS. Paints and stains, to meet EPA standards. must not contain VOCs in excess of 200 grams per litre. Varnishes must not contain VOCs in excess of 300 grams per liter. As a general rule, low VOC paints marketed by reputable paint manufacturers usually meet the 50 g/L VOC threshold. Paints with the Green Seal Standard (GS-11) mark are certified lower than 50 g/L (for flat sheen) or 150 g/L (for non-flat sheen).
Low VOC paints will still emit an odor until dry. If you are particularly sensitive, make sure the paint you buy contains fewer than 25 grams/liter of VOC's.
There is no known reuse of paints once they have been applied to a surface.
There is no known recycling of paints once they have been applied to a surface.
- Natural Paints and Finishes Sources
- Zero VOC
- Low VOC