Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC’s, are in many construction materials and contribute to that “new paint smell.” VOC’s have unstable chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and to people which is why they are now regulated by the government. VOC’s are made up of carbon in paints that can become vapors that build up inside the house and when inhaled can cause health problems. Issues such as headaches, nausea, problems breathing and in severe cases damage to the nervous system or can cause cancer. With the seriousness of the issues that VOC’s can cause, it is best to use low VOC paints for any painting projects in your home or business.
Low VOC Paints
These paints have smaller amounts of VOC’s in them, but may have some traces of them due to the color tints added to the paint base. Each color tint that is added can add 5 to 20 grams of VOC’s into your paint. Darker colors can add up to 300 grams of VOC’s so if you are extra cautious then choose lighter colors to lower the amount of VOC’s. Cheap paint will always have a higher amount of VOC’s, so just by purchasing a higher quality of paint you will reduce the amount of VOC exposure. Also ask if there are any low VOC tints available to minimize your exposure. There are several popular brands that make non-toxic, low VOC paints including, Behr, Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams.
Positives and Negatives of Low VOC Paints
The great thing about low VOC paints is that they don’t smell or have the trademark odor associated with a newly painted room. Low VOC paints dry fast, are durable and deliver excellent coverage. They can be applied to almost any surface, available in a wide variety of colors and are easy to find. The negative to low VOC paint is that in the effort to reduce VOC’s, other harmful chemicals can be added to offset their intended effect. Most of the time the net benefit is worth the reduction in VOC’s, but ask your professional painter if you have questions about the paint they are using. Low VOC paints are typically marketed as non-toxic or natural, but still check to see that they have no more than 5g per liter of VOC’s.