We feature guest posts from time to time on the Barbara Gilbert Interiors blog. This guest post is written by the folks at Modernize, and focuses on a topic important to me, eco-friendly paint.
The average home has indoor air two to five times more polluted than outside, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Much of that can be accredited to noxious volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being released into your home every day.
VOCs are a classification of chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature, lingering in the air for upwards of two to three months. And these toxins are known to wreak havoc on a person’s body. For example, The National Cancer Institute conducted a study in 2002 that found people who work in a painting trade had a significantly increased risk of cancer.
So what is a homeowner to do when they want to repaint their home safely? We at Modernize are here to help! Here are our four tips for how to choose an eco-friendly paint.
1. Traditional Paint
The three most common toxic issues with paint are VOCs, fungicides and biocides, and pigments. VOCs do more than just make you more susceptible to cancer; they have also been linked to headaches, nausea, and lung disease, to name a few.
Generally, 40 to 60 percent of the solvents used in oil-based paints are VOCs. Water-based paints are significantly better, but you can still expect between 5 and 10 percent to have VOCs.
Traditional paints include fungicides and biocides to preserve the paint and prevent mildew growth. However, those come at a significant cost to the consumer. Biocides can still be detected in a home that uses a traditional paint’s air up to 5 years later. When these paints are not disposed of properly, those chemicals can then leak into groundwater, causing further pollutants to enter our environment.
Chemical pigments are equally as toxic for us and the world. Over time the heavy metals such as copper, cobalt, and cadmium that are used as pigments in some paints can build up in a person’s body, causing a significantly increased risk of cancer.
2. What to Look For No Matter the Job
You want to strive to choose a paint that has low VOCs, low biocides and fungicides, and natural pigments. The EPA requires paint companies who use the “low-VOC” designation to state the number of grams per liter (gm/l) of VOCs the paint contains on the label. Though their maximum requirement for water-based latex paints is 250 gm/l and 380 gm/l for oil-based paints, you are able to find options on the market that have even lower VOC levels. If you are unsure as to whether your paint selection fits these designations, check the label or contact the company for a material safety data sheet.
3. Exterior Paints
It is slim pickings to find an eco-friendly paint on the market that fits those requirements, especially considering that all exterior paint will have contain fungicides and biocides. An easy solution here is to look for a paint that uses zinc oxide as the fungicide because it will have fewer negative impacts on the environment than other alternatives. Also, zero- to-low VOC paints or recycled water-based paints are another great choice.
4. Interior Paints
Milk paints and natural paints are going to be your best options when choosing an interior paint. Milk paints use the milk protein, casein, and lime as their solvents rather than chemicals; whereas natural paints generally make use of minerals, balsam, and citrus. These paints will be petroleum-free, and though they do contain terpenes, these VOCs are derived from plants and will not release VOCs, biocides, or fungicides into the air.
No matter which brand you choose, when you decide to use an eco-friendly paint in your home, you can rest assured that you have picked the best materials for yourself, your loved ones, and the world.