Green paints? What exactly makes a paint green and why should you care? Traditionally paints have included chemicals that are actually harmful to you at home, as well as the environment. Most people recognize the smell of a freshly painted room. What you may not realize is the smell comes from the release of chemicals into the air, chemicals that aren't healthy. These chemicals collectively are called Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs).
New paint formulas are coming on the market with reduced or no VOCs. Today you have a choice but eventually the sale of paint with VOCs will be banned just the way paint today no longer includes lead.
… by Julie Hiltabiddle, Samarra Faux Painting
A simple coat of paint can transform a dull, lifeless room into a restful oasis. But did you know that same paint emits toxic fumes, even long after the paint is dry to the touch?
Along with many other items in your home, including carpets, cleaning supplies and personal care products, paint emits toxic VOCs, Volatile Organic Compounds. But imagine you could transform your uninspiring space to unbelievable using less paint and it would be better for your family's health and the environment. With the public's growing interest in sustainable design and the increasingly strict governmental regulations, painting manufacturers are developing new paint formulas that are healthier for you and the environment, and more effective than most standard latex paints.
Why Paint Contains VOCs?
The paint and emulsions industry has historically used various VOC's to create solvents and pigments. That overpowering odor that invades your senses when you paint? You guessed it – VOC's. The smell is the solvents evaporating; a process called off-gassing, that continues long after the paint is dry, emitting toxic vapors into your home. Oil-based paints have the highest level of VOC's but they are also present to a lesser degree in latex paints. Exposure to VOC's can cause eye and throat irritation, nausea, dizziness, headaches, and even trigger asthma attacks. Long term exposure has been linked to cancer and kidney disease. No wonder the EPA named indoor air as one of the top five health risks!
The good news is that high quality, easy to use paints are now available in Low to Zero VOC's in a large selection of colors and finishes. These paints emit fewer fumes while you are painting and none after the paint dries. Samarra's favorite? Benjamin Moore's Aura Interior paint. A low-VOC acrylic paint (Moore uses California's regulation – under 50 grams per liter – the most stringent in the country); the paint contains primer, provides complete coverage in one coat, and dries fast. The advanced technology used to create Aura makes it more fade and stain resistant as well.It has little odor, no off-gassing, and it's easy to cleanup. Plus, adding color to the paint does not add VOC's as it does with other brands. Aura costs more than a regular gallon but you don't need primer or multiple coats, plus the health benefits certainly outweigh the costs, because you'll apply fewer coatings Low VOC's means fewer chemicals polluting your home and your landfill.
But how do you know how many VOC's your favorite paint contains? Check the literature. VOC is listed as grams per liter, from 5 to 200 – the lower the number, the lower the health risks. Plus, check for EPA registration. Generally, if a product is registered with the EPA, it is being measured for toxicity and may not be safe for you or the environment.
How to Paint Greener
In addition to purchasing low VOC paints, you can reduce the environmental impact of your painting project by following these guidelines:
Purchase only the amount of paint you need: Measure the room (height x width), plan on covering about 400 square feet per gallon of paint color. Don't worry! There's plenty of calculators online and your paint vendor will also be happy to offer advice if you need help figuring it out.
Don't wash your tools until your'e done: If your project lasts longer than a day, wrap brushes in plastic instead of cleaning them.
Don't throw left-over paint: Save it for touch-ups. Store tightly sealed, upside down in cool, dry place.
Properly dispose of containers: Open the empty cans in a well-ventilated place (preferably outdoors) so solvents will evaporate before adding the cans to your garbage.
While it is impossible to eliminate VOC's and other toxic chemicals from our homes and the environment, we can limit their usage. It is an exciting time in the painting industry as more and more high quality, environmentally friendly products and finishes are being developed and introduced into marketplace. As sustainable design becomes more prevalent, what is now a trend will become second nature to consumers and vendors, resulting in more eco-friendly, health conscious and ultimately less expensive products. For now though, there's enough low-VOC paint available to transform your living space from blah to beautiful!
Julie Hiltabiddle is the owner of the award-winning Samarra Faux Painting. Samara specializes in interior painting, faux design, and color consulting for residential and commercial clients. The all-female crew, now seven members strong, consists of formally trained and experienced artists. For more information, call 978-499-0801 or visit them online at www.SamarraFaux.com.
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