Environmentally Friendly and Low VOC emitting Paint
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Air Quality in the home is one of the leading causes of sickness and solvent based paint, thinners and varnishes are all within the top 5 air pollution risks in your home. A scary thought for those concerned about the well being of your family at home.
Paint is a liquid, mixed with a colorant, that is applied to a substrate, walls, floor or furniture that when it dries, creates a solid opaque film. This film emits a low level toxin or VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) in your home and lowers the overall air quality of your space.
VOC's are emitted during the application and drying process and can have residual effects on humans for years after application. The systems can be nausea's, headaches, congestion and even kidney failure after prolonged exposure, so due to the toxicity of conventional paints, consumers and organizations have been pushing paint manufacturers to come up with more ecologically friendly paints and stains that have lower VOC emissions and less toxicity.
Due to this pressure to go green, there are now several options available on the market that meet and exceed the standards set forth by the EPA and others for VOC emission levels. There is Zero VOC paint, Low VOC paint and Natural based and products as well as new products arriving such as ceramic paint that have increased durability and are anti microbial. Now there is a caveat though with regard to these paints. Almost all of them do have certain levels of VOC emissions due to chemical mixtures, colorants and such. Comparatively though, these emissions are small compared to oil based or petroleum based paints and solvents.
So when planning on changing paint colors in some rooms of your home or decorating your baby nursery, make sure you consider the following to keep your family safe from harmful VOC's; a much safer idea for your baby room!
Environmental Impact of Low VOC Paint
Low VOC paints use water based solvents instead of petroleum based solvents in their mixture and have little to no Heavy metals or Formaldehydes. These water based solvents have much lower VOC emissions than conventional petroleum based solvents. These paints can be identified by the VOC levels on the side of the can and there is guidelines set forth by the EPA which indicates that low VOC paints and stains must contain less than 200 grams per litre of VOC and varnishes cannot exceed more than 300 grams per litre. There is also another certification that goes even further; Green Seal Certified paints are required to have VOC levels less than 50 grams per litre for flat sheet paints and 150 grams per litre for non flat sheet applications. The Green Seal label is clearly marked on all products it certifies and includes major paint manufacturers so there is no worry about availability. Low VOC paints will still have lingering VOC levels for up to a year after application so it is recommended to find the paint that suits your needs as well as meets the VOC emission levels you feel comfortable with. Many Low VOC paints can still contain Ethylene Glycol, a clear, colorless and odorless liquid that can be harmful to humans if inhaled. Look for products that are Ethylene Glycol free if you can find them.
Environmental Impact of Zero VOC paints
Zero VOC emission eco paints are a bit misleading. As previously mentioned, all paints do have levels of VOC; it just depends on how much. A zero VOC paint contains less that 5 grams per litre of VOC emissions. This number does increase as much as 2.5 grams per litre when colorants and pigments are added but these VOC levels are still extremely low compared to even low VOC paints and especially conventional, petroleum based solvents. These zero VOC paints still can contain some level of toxicity with the application of various colorants, biocides and fungicides.
Natural based Paints
Natural based paints are made from natural raw ingredients to create their green paint. These naturally based paints contain various colorants and ingredients such as: Milk protein, minerals, Bees wax, natural wax, chalk, talcum, earth and clay pigments and plant oils and resins. Natural based environmentally friendly paints have extremely low VOC levels and have little to no smell, do not commonly effect people with sensitivities and allergies and tend to be the most eco friendly paint product available.
There is another alternative to the other more common environmentally friendly paints and it is Ceramic paint. Unlike other paints, which have uneven pigment extenders (Powder like material that creates the color in paint) such as clay, that affect the finish, cleanliness and cohesiveness of conventional paint when dry, ceramic paint uses small, identically shaped spherical balls of ceramic as a pigment extender. Because of their universal size, these pigments can get much closer together during mixing and can be applied to create a much harder and denser acrylic surface. Due to this increased density and hardness, ceramic paints can be scrubbed without damage to the paint surface. With ceramic paint, the spherical balls can get very close together giving little room for dust and bacteria to grow on the surface making this product Anti microbial and resistant to mold and mildew.
A word on Paint Thinners and Turpentine
The normal process for removing paint has either been to scrape the paint off the substrate or use a paint thinner that chemically melted the paint from the substrate. This process is toxic by nature as the primary ingredient; methylene chloride is considered a carcinogen. There are alternatives that use a different process that softens the paint from the substrate making it easier to remove. These paint thinners can be biodegrade, water soluble and have low toxicity levels. The primary ingredient in these thinners is a chemical called N-Methylpyrrolidone, a chemical agent that is used widely for dissolving chemicals, especially petroleum based solvents such as paint. It is chemically stable, non flammable and considered relatively non toxic although recently it has been found to be a reproductive toxicant by California and and the European commission. Ensuring proper ventilation in your work areas can alleviate these concerns and avoid overexposure.
Turpentine is a great way to clean and maintain brushes as it considered an organic compound sourced from the distillation of tree resin, most particularly Pine trees. It has long been used as a solvent, along with bees wax and carnauba wax and is highly effective in its capacity. It is flammable as it was once used in lanterns much like other solvents it can be toxic and with prolonged exposure Turpentine can damage lungs and the central nervous system and cause Renal failure if swallowed.
The Sexy Green Home Opinion
Try to reduce your family's exposure to harmful VOC emissions. Start choosing low VOC paints for your children's rooms and baby nurseries to reduce their exposure. VOC emissions from conventional paints create very poor air quality environments for the home and your families. Choose the product that best suits your needs and look for the VOC emission labels on the side of the can. The Green Seal Certification will help guide you as well. Keep your home sexy, VOC free and ecologically friendly for your future.