Whether you’re planning a new build, renovation or just redecorating your home, your choice of paint is important both to your family’s health and the environment.
Despite the fact that the dangers of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are now well known, most traditional paints are still very bad news.
Due to their VOC content, they can release toxins into the air for years after use – and some are known to contain cancer-causing agents.
And it’s not just when you’re decorating that you are putting yourself at risk. Unless the tin is airtight, stored paints can still release chemicals into your home.
Major Health Hazard
In fact, America’s Environmental Protection Agency says that paints and finishes are one of the top five causes of health hazards in the home.
So when you decide your rooms are in need of a colour change, look further than the main top selling paint brands in major DIY and decorating stores.
It’s now possible to buy paints which are VOC-free or contain much lower levels of VOCs.
Better still, they are low odour and less likely to aggravate conditions such as asthma or affect people with allergies. They are also good news for the planet because they reduce both the amount of VOCs going to landfill and the level of ozone depleting contaminants.
What to Look For
When buying paint, look for the VOC content which will usually be listed on the tin in grams per litre. (To qualify as a VOC-free paint in the USA, products must have a VOC range of only 5 grams per litre or less.)
You can also avoid paints which contain toxic ingredients by looking for a DOT or OSHA registration number. If one is present, it’s a good indication of toxins.
The best way to avoid toxins is to buy a paint made from natural ingredients. For example, one major environmental brand is made from milk protein, lime, clay and earth pigments and is lead-free.
Milk paint has been around for thousands of years and is now available in a wide range of colours – or you can mix colours to achieve your perfect shade.
Another up-and-coming brand in the UK has been produced without VOCs and is also solvent free. (Solvents are thought to be a major cause of sick building syndrome and exposure to solvents can lead to flu-like symptoms – or worse in the case of people with allergies.)
Always read the label carefully when buying paints or varnishes because a product can be called “organic” even when it contains solvent, so you would still be allowing toxins into your home.
Best of All
The best new organic paints don’t include solvents and are miles ahead of other brands because they are also completely pesticide free, herbicide free and non-toxic which means they are great for the family, pets and the environment too!
Whenever you use any type of paint, always ensure that the room is well ventilated both during and for at least two hours after application.
And if you must use a paint containing VOCs, don’t hang onto any leftovers unless you are sure that the tin is airtight.
Finally, remember that it isn’t just paint that contains VOCs. They are also present in many carpets and furnishings – so always ask the retailer.