Environmentally Friendly Painting: Go Green

Spring is here (yeah!). Quick: what thought does spring conjure up? If you’re like us, the beginning of spring is synonymous with cleaning and organizing. Perhaps you’ve had painting on your long overdue to-do list, but you’ve been worried about the whispers of “environmental repercussions” and “health concerns”.

If so, print this post and consider it your primer in healthy, environmentally-friendly paints! Here’s what you need to know:

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): You’ve probably heard of VOCs as THE issue with most household paints. VOCs are also commonly referred to as organic gases, but don’t let the word “organic” fool you. According to the EPA, “VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors.” VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products including paints, lacquers, and paint strippers.

The EPA’s Total Exposure Methodology studies indicate that while people are using products containing VOCs, they can be exposed to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.

Health effects: Obviously there are many factors that will determine health effects, including length of time exposed and level of exposure. According to the EPA, “Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to some organics. Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.”

Reducing exposure: Use products according to the manufacturer’s directions, provide plenty of fresh air circulation, throw away unused containers safely, and only buy quantities based on the need. Also, always keep out of reach of children (obviously!)

To learn more, visit the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality website.

Paints we like:

Yolo Colorhouse: Zero VOC; comes in flat, eggshell, semi-gloss and primer; $28-$39/gallon

AFM Safecoat: Recipient of the Scientific Certification Systems’ Indoor Air Quality Gold certification for achieving the most stringent air quality objectives in North America. Downside: a little pricier than the other options.

American Pride: Low-odor, low-VOC, and competitively priced. However, it does contain mildecide, which some people are allergic to. But if you’re trying to fight mildew in your home, this is a great option.

Benjamin Moore Eco Spec paints: Low odor, low VOC, readily available but also a bit on the pricey side.

Milk Paint: When all else fails, go old school. Milk paints contain only all-natural ingredients. The Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company has been faithfully producing a genuine Milk Paint is created by leveraging a primitive method of creating home-made paint made with skim milk or buttermilk, crushed limestone and pigments found around clay pits, or chimney soot and mineral colors crushed and powdered. This original paint goes back about 6000 and more years as evidence by early cave paintings. Easy to acquire online, pricey at appx $46/gallon for interior wall paint, and a little less user-friendly.