When you're embarking on a home renovation, repainting a room (or a few) is practically a given. However, did you know that your choice of paint can greatly affect the indoor air quality of your home, and in turn, your family's health? Consider using eco-friendly house paint next time you get the urge to change your color palette.
Learn Your VOCs
Before you can talk "green" paint, you must master the VOC lingo. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with wine labels like AOC or DOCG; instead, it means volatile organic compound. Doesn't sound like something you want in your house, does it?
We've all smelled the strong stench of paint, and whether or not you like it (admit it, many of you do), it has the brain-cell-killing power of glue. Paints not only release these VOCs into your living environment upon application, but they continue to "off-gas" for several years. According to the EPA, exposure to VOCs can result in such unpleasant symptoms as "conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, and dizziness." Fortunately, there are plenty of interior and exterior home paint products on the market that contain much less-or none at all-of these undesirable side effects.
While there are no official standards governing VOCs in non-industrial settings, paints marketed as low VOC should contain less than 50 grams per liter of VOCs per the EPA's guidelines. Levels vary by manufacturer, and you'll still notice a little of that "new paint smell" until it dries. Most low VOC paints are latex (water based) rather than oil-based, although there are a few exceptions. Manufacturers that produce low VOC paint include:
Benjamin Moore Aura
Sherwin Williams GreenSure
Dunn Edwards Paints
The designation of "zero VOC" is a little misleading. Just like certain food products are labeled "fat free" if they contain less than a gram, paints may be labeled zero VOC if they contain less than 5 grams per liter. Still, zero VOC paints are a very environmentally-conscious choice, and especially so for those who are sensitive to strong smells or have allergies. Manufacturers that produce zero VOC paint include:
The Freshaire Choice
If all the letters and numbers prove too much for you, opt for paint made from natural ingredients. With these products, you don't have to worry about any harsh chemicals or compounds as they are made from water, plant dyes, essential oils, resins, clay, chalk, milk casein and even bees' wax. The scent is minimal if not pleasant. Manufacturers that produce natural paint include:
Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company
No matter which type of eco-friendly house paint that you choose, look for the stamp from Green Seal-a non-profit, independent product certifier-just as you would look for the Energy Star label when buying appliances.