You know that paint is the easiest thing to change in home
décor. Except for maybe throw pillows… but did you know traditional paint is
also a major cause of air pollution?
The chemical compounds that, historically,
have made paint fast drying, easy to spread, offer better coverage and hiding,
just to name a few characteristics, are highly toxic and contribute
approximately 10 percent of all the greenhouse gasses generated in the United
See our article, “Building a Healthy Home,”
about a low-toxin home built for
the couple who wanted the least possible toxins in their house as possible.
(Click here for that article.)
The wife is a cancer survivor, and they both
wanted the healthiest home possible for themselves and now, their young family.
VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds are nothing you’d buy at
the farmers’ market. They are “organic” because they contain carbon (look up
for much more detailed information!) and make up toxic and
potentially carcinogenic chemicals that are common in household paint. VOCs
evaporate quickly into the air.
If you set a pan of gasoline, lighter fluid, paint thinner
or other solvents out in the open air, the pan will be empty in a matter of
minutes, if not seconds, because they are VOCs. Do NOT try this at home, it’s
not a good science project idea. Well, OK, it is a cool idea, but use rubbing
alcohol instead... it’s a far less toxic chemical. Those chemicals don’t just
disappear, they escape into the air--the atmosphere we breathe--and further
diminish our precious ozone layer that makes this planet livable.
You don’t want any of those nasty chemicals inside your
house, where the air quality can be as much as 2 to 5 times as polluted as the
air outside! Stay away from air fresheners and frequent off-gassing offenders
such as new carpet or furniture, too, though that will be another article for
There are regulations developing which require lower use of
VOCs in paints, particularly in California and especially in and around Los
Angeles, where paint fumes add to the levels of smog. A traditional paint may
have as much as 350 grams per liter (g/L) or more, an average paint is
approximately 150 g/L. “No VOC” paints are considered less than 5 g/L, which is
not technically “no” VOC. If you are highly sensitive, read labels and
information carefully. Many paint bases are low VOC but the tints they use have
more VOCs. And, beware: paints with 50-150 g/L can be considered “low-VOC!”
Fortunately there are many good quality super low- and truly
no-VOC paints available for you to make that easy décor change and make it much
harder for yourself, your family and your pets sick. Mythic Paint, Olympic
Premium (Lowes), Sherwin Williams Harmony and Freshaire Choice by Home Depot
are no-VOC paints compare well enough in Consumer Reports 2009 tests of many
paints. Yolo Colorhouse and many other regional brands are good resources but
are not mentioned in the CR report. Websites for Mythic Paint
and Yolo Colorhouse
very informative too.
The decision is yours. Low and no-VOC paints may be more expensive and you may need more coats. But the air in your home may be better. Regardless of the paint you choose,
be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions, ventilate well, clean up
properly and talk with your paint suppliers or contractors for more
recommendations and information.
Until next time!
Photos courtesy of Mythic Paint and Yolo Colorhouse.
Labels: clean air in the home, healthy homes, healthy paint, low toxin paint, low VOC, no VOC, off gassing, organic chemistry, VOCs