As more businesses and consumers turn to “green” products and design concepts in order to reduce their impact on the environment, fewer products are made that prove to be negative forces in our society. However, this process can take years to implement. During this time, people are still exposed to products and everyday consumables that are harmful for their health, whether they know it or not. Even when warned about the possibility of being exposed to harmful products, a lot of people choose to believe that they are immune from any effects. Unfortunately, thousands of people are diagnosed with illnesses resulting from direct exposure to the chemicals found in these products.
One of the most common culprits for chemical exposure is paint. Most interior and exterior types of paint contain Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. These VOCs come from drying agents, solvents, antifreeze and other ingredients found in paint. Under normal conditions, these chemicals can vaporize and enter our atmosphere, which contributes to the growing problem of greenhouse gases. According to the Paint Quality Institute, VOCs found in traditional paints make up 10 percent of the ozone depleting substances in the United States.
VOCs and Health Risks
The amount of VOCs in a can of paint is typically reported in grams per liter on the side or bottom of the container. The average gallon of paint contains at least 150 grams per liter of VOCs. It is important to be wary of paint that claims to be LOW VOC because this usually just pertains to the base product. When tint is added to the base paint, the product surpasses 50 grams per liter. To make things even more complicated, most Flat Base paint qualifies below the 50 grams per liter mark but as you change the sheen the level of VOC in the paint increases. For example, the Flat Base paint you buy may be labeled LOW VOC but when you choose semi-gloss, gloss or satin the VOC level goes up. The equation gets even more exponential when you throw in a dark color mixed in with gloss paint.
Health issues associated with exposure to these chemicals in paint include asthma, dry eyes, headaches, dizziness, respiratory problems and swollen lymph nodes, among many others. In addition, these chemicals can cause damage to your liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Even worse, the danger presented by VOCs does not end once the paint dries. In fact, up to half of the VOCs found in paint will continue to be released for up to six years after drying.
What Can Be Done?
Luckily, there has been an increase in the amount of offerings by companies of Non-VOC paints. These product lines contain no VOCs in any of their sheen base paints or tinting products. This means that no matter what color, sheen or coverage you choose for the interior or exterior of your project, there will be no volatile organic compounds found in your paint. In addition, there are a few companies that go a step further and have no carcinogens or toxins added either. Collectively these companies are taking the first steps toward creating a greener environment for all of us, starting with our own homes. This will allow our generation and those to come to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our valuable resources.