of Home Improvements
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.
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.
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.
Deemed Hazardous Waste
and disposal greatly simplified.
Types of Non-Toxic Paints and Finishes
Natural Paints and 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.
Most paint strippers are caustic - they work by melting the paint. The active ingredient, methylene chloride, is a potential carcinogen. A new generation of biodegradable paint strippers is now entering the market. They are water-soluble, noncaustic and nontoxic - some can even be washed down the drain.
The active ingredient in these products is N-Methylpyrrolidone, an organic solvent. Rather than burning or melting, the compound chemically changes the paint itself, softening it. The downside? These new strippers are more expensive than their traditional counterparts, and they take longer to work.
Pet birds can be hard on cages - often chewing, scratching or wearing the paint. They can ingest flakes of paint which can be harmful to their health, or can be sensitive to fumes from new paint. Birds have very sensitive lungs, and in many, paint odors can even cause death.
Read the label
and product literature: Besides general information, look for:
Solids Content: Solids, or pigments, can range in concentration from 25% to 45% by volume. The higher the percent solids, the less volatiles in the paint.
EPA, OSHA, DOT Registrations: When a product has an EPA, OHSA or DOT registration number, this means that it contains toxic ingredients which must be monitored. One way to ensure that you are using a product that is safe both for the environment and the applicator is to seek out products which are not registered with these agencies.
made from the resin of coniferous trees, is an environmentally-friendly
solvent. It is excellent for cleaning brushes used with oil-based paints,
and for cleaning up small drips. Use a short glass jar, filled no higher
than the bristles. Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid. After cleaning
the brush, rinse with water.
Non Toxic paint
I know how a fresh coat of paint is such a simple way to transform your house more into a home. But did you know that while adding color to a room, you are also slapping on lead, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and xylene-all potentially hazardous to your health? These neurotoxins are powerful enough to vaporize into the air you breathe. After automobiles, paint and its companions are the second highest source of VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions. The smells tend to stick around upwards of a week as the paint dries but can last up to three months. That is three months of exposure to toxic chemicals!
Non-toxic paint (also called non-VOC paint) has been gaining popularity since it was first introduced in the 1960s. It is marketed as a safer, less-polluting solution for interior wall painting and even artistic painting. The absence of chemical solvents renders it a safer, less-polluting solution for interior wall painting and even artistic painting.
Obviously, the major pros involve health and the environment. You don't breathe in the fumes that are emitted by solvent-containing paints as they dry. Some of the most popular non-VOC paints are made with milk or other organic components that smell better as you paint and don't release harmful vapors.
The pros are especially important for people who have chronic respiratory problems or allergies. Chemical fumes create more irritants in the air, which can worsen pre-existing conditions or even create new conditions that are harder to control. Even if you use an air purifier and allergen-free furnishings, paint with chemicals can significantly damage your health.
Other pros of non-toxic paint include price, drying time and disposal, though the first two are affected largely by the non-VOC paint product you choose. Many of these alternative paints cost less (especially in bulk), and dry much faster due to their thicker consistency. Furthermore, you don't have to dispose of non-toxic paint as hazardous waste, which makes clean-up much easier.
Natural paints and finishes:
Using a paint that is made from natural raw ingredients will produce a paint that gives off no smell. This is the ideal and safest choice if you have access to it (see sources below), but will be more expensive than the other options. Ingredients include: plant dyes, oils and resins; minerals such as clay, chalk and talcum; natural oils and waxes such a bee’s wax; milk casein and natural latex.
Zero volatile organic compounds:
This paint meets the EPA Standard of 5 g/L (grams per litre) or less. It appears that it can still have some chemicals though Pigments will increase the VOC ratio.
This paint meets the EPA minimum requirement of no more than 250 g/L and no more than 80 g/L for oil based paint to be considered low-VOC. These paints, stains and varnishes use water as a carrier, contain no petroleum-based solvents and have very low levels of heavy metals and formaldehyde. So it can still have an off-gassing effect, just not as significant as conventional paint. Look for paints with the Green Seal Standard (GS-11) certification or the Green Guard Air Control label. Pigments will increase the VOC ratio.
So next time you are considering doing a little redecoration in your home, check out these non toxic paint as safer alternatives.