Painting can be a daunting task, not to mention it’s an activity that has the tendency to produce headaches or even worse symptoms by the fumes. Typical paint has up to 10,000 chemicals. Hundreds of these are actually toxins, and some of them have been linked to cancer. Some of the most harmful chemicals found in paint are volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

The History of Low VOC PaintsWhat are VOCs?

Volatile organic compounds are unstable, carbon-containing compounds that readily vaporize into the air. They then react with other elements, producing ozone. Ozone exposure causes many health problems such as nausea, breathing issues, and headaches. It also causes air pollution. Some VOCs also have been linked to cancer, as well as kidney and liver damage.

VOCs are released into the air as paint dries.  But they continue to wreak havoc as the years go by. Although VOC levels are highest during and soon after painting, they continue seeping out for several years.

Why are VOCs in paint in the first place?

While the pose a great health and environmental risk, VOCs do have necessary functions in paint. They keep the binders and pigments of paint in a liquid solution long enough for the paint to be applied. They then conveniently evaporate so the paint can dry.

Because of the risks of VOC paints, consumers are now demanding safer alternatives. This is when low VOC paints come into the picture. There are now paints with low levels of VOCs available and sold by most major paint manufacturers. Most of them have no more than 50 grams per liter. This is compared to 380 grams found in the most commonly used brands.

If you have painted with regular paint recently, you probably had to deal with fumes. If you absolutely don’t have access to VOC paint, be sure to air the rooms out after painting. Make use of a fan and leave the windows open in order to get rid of the toxic fumes.