If you are planning on painting your home, and you currently have children in the house or one on the way, you should at least be aware of the ‘eco-friendly painting’ or ‘green painting’ options.
The good news is that you live in a country with strong government oversight on things like toxicity levels of products commonly used in the household. Laws are constantly being updated and paint manufactures are consistently updating their formulations to be friendlier to the environment and their consumer’s health.
From a health standpoint, you cannot go wrong with almost any acrylic based paint on the shelves today. That said, there has been a strong push in recent years to manufacture and market paints that go well beyond the letter of the law in terms health and environmental concerns.
The key term in this area of the painting industry is Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). To be considered Low VOC, paint must contain less than 250 grams of VOC per liter. Paints sold as No VOC are limited to 5 grams per liter. To achieve the most significant child-friendly benefits from Low / No VOC paints your painter should also use a Low / No VOC primer and implement appropriate surface preparation techniques.
The most immediate benefits to using Low / No VOC products is that there is usually no odor once the paint is dry and a shorter waiting period to safely and comfortably occupy the room. Longer term benefits include reduction of toxins released into the air, but once again this is a matter of degree, should not be a deterrent from using ‘standard’ acyclic paints and should be more of a consideration when infants or young children are in the home or it is occupied by someone afflicted with significant respiratory issues or immune system deficiencies.
One potential downside to many of the Low / No VOC products is that at the end of the day they can cost more than traditional acrylic paints of the same quality level. This can come from a combination of initially being more expensive per gallon, and then in many cases more paint is needed to fully cover the same area.
The range of Low / No VOC paint colors is growing but there are limitations by manufacturer, and in certain instances adding tint to achieve a certain color may ultimately raise the VOC levels.
Another issue is labeling standards are not uniform and can be confusing to consumers. Some paints are labeled Green Seal certified, some meet LEED standards but do not follow Green Seal requirements and many paint manufacturers have their own specific ‘Green’ designations. Also, some paints may be labeled low odor, but are not low VOC. Several popular ‘Green’ paints that we like are Harmony and Duration Home from Sherwin Williams (look for the Green Sure logo) and Natura from Benjamin Moore (look for the Green Promise designation).