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Friday, November 15, 2013

Is Low VOC Paint Really Safer?

Remember lead-based paint? In the United States, it was banned in 1978 because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered it put people, especially children, at risk for lead poisoning. More recently, VOC is a term that is being used with paint to identify another potential health risk.

What is VOC?

VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, which are harmful chemicals found in paint. VOCs help maintain color pigment and make the paint stick. But the chemicals are released into the air during painting and after the paint dries. In fact, about 50 percent of the chemicals are released into the air during the first year with the chemicals continuing to seep into the air for years afterward.

Why are VOC's harmful?

Regular exposure to VOC's in paint has been linked to increased cases of certain cancers, impaired brain function, renal dysfunction and other health problems. This can include anything from breathing problems, headache, burning, watery eyes and nausea to kidney and liver damage.

How to buy low VOC paint

New paints come in either low- or no-VOC. The difference is in the amount of VOC's in the paint. No VOC means just that--no harmful chemicals. But low-VOC can vary in the amount of grams per liter. The safe level of VOC's has been established by Green Seal, a non-profit organization, and is now used as an environmental standard. Safe standards are:

  • 50 grams per liter for flat topcoat and reflective wall coating
  • 100 grams per liter for primer, non-flat topcoat, floor paint and reflective roof coating
  • 250 grams per liter for anti-corrosive paint

Note: Even with low- or no-VOC paint, please dispose of leftovers responsibly so it does not end up in your water supply. Most cities have a recycle center where you can take hazardous wastes, including paint.

DISCLAIMER: The content or opinions expressed on this web site are not to be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or medical practictioner before utilizing any suggestions on this web site.