Remember the new paint smell? Even if the smallest room in your house – the room all the way back in a far corner – was painted, you could smell it all over your home for days? You knew you could only paint in the summer months; opening a window barely had any affect.
Thanks to the media and various environmental organizations, we are becoming more aware of household product safety and the impact they have on our environment. Paint was once taken for granted and judged solely on the effect it had on the surface area. We now realize, however, there are many harmful chemicals in some paint products on the market today. Researchers have found a group of toxic compounds commonly found in paint called Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC) which are both carcinogenic, or cancer causing agents, and destructive to the ozone layer.
Anyone who has ever painted a bedroom or taken on any other painting project has smelled paint and knows how strong the odor can be. Exposure to the neurotoxins over an extended period of time may do irreparable damage to the body. From an environmental standpoint, the chemicals break down over time due to climate change, time, and other airborne chemicals. This may result in tiny particles being carried by the wind into the air we breathe, or into our water supply. Or end up in the digestive systems of our children, as we’re discovering with lead paint issues.
Recent laws outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency make it illegal for painting contractors to use lead based paint on any surface larger that six (6) square feet. This means anyone involved in commercial painting must become certified and licensed in order to continue working in their chosen profession. For the average individual simply looking to take on a home improvement project obviously those requirements do not apply. Yet just knowing the laws are in existence tells us about the dangers, and how we need to change the way we look at what we are using in the homes we live in.
Indoor air quality is of major concern as we learn more about the affects. Recent studies have found the air inside the average house is more polluted than outside. As we move towards a greener planet void of harmful chemicals, making smarter choices is critical. Here are some helpful hints in locating eco-friendly paints:
1. New EPA regulations require house paints to have low VOC (Volatile Organic Chemical) labels. Low VOC warnings allow a maximum of 200 grams of VOC content per liter of paint. Read the label carefully or talk with your professional painter first about making smart choices.
2. For those who are more environmentally conscious, there are Ultra Low VOC paint products available. The VOC limitations are 5 grams per liter of paint. Expect to pay more for safer and environmentally friendly paints.
3. Look for paint ingredients that are known to be harmful to the environment and to health. Some of the hazardous chemicals to avoid are xylene, benzene, ammonia, kerosene, and formaldehyde.
4. Conduct the smell test. Paints with low chemical content are not as toxic and do not emit strong odors. Check the label for the “green” symbol and a “low odor” warning.