November 13, 2010
Zero VOC, Non Toxic, Healthier Painting
A few weeks ago as the weather began to turn chilly, in a moment of do-it-yourself enthusiasm I decided I was done with the sea foam green, a shade that can in fact make the room feel colder than it is. I wanted a color that would make the room warmer.
Have you tried to decide on a paint color lately? It’s daunting. Standing in the middle of an enormous home improvement warehouse, I actually began to consult the names of the colors, as a way to help me decide. Who has the job of thinking up these names? I selected “Moroccan Sky,” an earth tone resembling terra cotta. Perfect.
I wanted my Moroccan Sky to be zero-VOC to limit my toxic exposure. VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds found in a variety of products such as furniture, carpeting, adhesives, and paints. The compounds release into the air and can cause ailments from allergies to cancer to ozone layer depletion.
Nowadays you can take in a swatch of color that can be matched in almost any brand of paint. But getting my exotically named orange-brown paint without VOCs apparently meant complications for the paint department employee, who seemed more interested in stocking shelves than mixing paint. So he said, “It’s a lot more expensive and really doesn’t matter. Today’s paints are all very low in VOCs. It’s not like the old days. These are all incredibly low, so just get what you want in any brand and you’ll be fine.”
I doubted this, truly, but I was on a DIY enthusiasm roll which doesn’t come around often. I went ahead with Moroccan Sky and its “low” VOCs. Once back home in full paint mode, it was clear there were plenty of toxins coming out of the can, into the air, and onto my wall. The smell was so strong I took frequent breaks even though a good breeze blew through the windows. I began to wonder about cancer. I painted one wall, got out quickly, and let the room air out overnight with an air filter running on turbo.
The next day I went to my small local hardware store and inquired about a paint color that is a few notches down the scale. It was a bit too ambitious after all, to have four “Moroccan” walls. I wanted warmth, not a cave. This paint department employee was very agreeable that zero-VOC, non-toxic paint is the way to go. He gave me literature supporting the reasons why it’s better for our health, which I knew but had lost sight of in my eagerness to get started. I settled on “Spiced Cider” and even the employee said it sounded wonderful.
Let me spare you the further details of my painting adventures and get to the point, which is to say, if you are up for a change and would like to paint your home or office, spend the extra $10 per gallon to get paint that is safe for you, your pets, and the environment. Here are more reasons why:
• There are little or no noxious fumes.
• There isn’t toxic off gassing, which can occur for years with ordinary paint.
• You can use the room right away without having to wait for the smell to dissipate.
• You’ll be exposed to zero carcinogens. Be sure to verify this in the brand you purchase.
• There will be no risk of toxicity to your kidneys, liver, and nervous system.
• You’ll avoid sinus inflammation and allergies.
• You won’t harm the ozone layer.
• A zero-VOC, non-toxic paint won’t add more caustic chemicals to landfills.
• You’ll protect your pets from breathing toxic indoor air, which in many cases is much more polluted than outdoor air. Ordinary paint fumes can kill birds, and you'll not have to worry about this at all.
Once I brought home my new gallon of Spiced Cider, I opened the lid and swiped a bit of it on the walls. Breathing easy, it felt like the best extra $10 ever spent.