Eco friendly paints make sense due to two reasons — first, they are less harmful to the environment and second, they are safer for you.
Some people have an aversion to painting projects and not without reason. It is not just the disturbance in routine that painting projects can cause, studies have demonstrated a higher incidence of cancer in people associated with the occupation of painting. While scientists continue to research the linkage between chemicals in paints and diseases, the unbearable fumes emanating from paint are a reality for many office and home owners.
Thankfully, several manufacturers provide a range of eco-friendly paints and stains that make it possible to avoid the health and environmental risks linked with paints. Interior designers are also increasingly encouraging customers to choose eco-friendly paints.
Harmful Components of Paints
Some of the paint components that are known or believed to be harmful to human health and the environment include:
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) — VOCs are present in almost all painting products — paints, strippers, wood preservatives, solvents, mineral spirits, etc. These organic compounds evaporate as the paint product dries. The organic compounds released may include formaldehyde, benzene and other irritants. Besides affecting the conjunctiva of the eye and the mucus lining of the nose and throat, they can cause headaches, nausea, allergy, fatigue and dizziness.
- Biocides —Biocides are used in paints to control the growth of fungus and other microorganisms both during storage and after application particularly in areas prone to moisture seepage. Besides contaminating air, they can also harm the environment.
- Toxic pigments — Lead, cadmium and some other heavy metals are used as pigments. These paints can be particularly dangerous for children.
Biocide-free exterior paints are difficult to maintain, but it is possible to get exterior paints with zinc oxide or lime as the active biocide. These are more benign for health and the environment.
For interior paints, milk paint and other paints derived from natural ingredients are an excellent choice that is offbeat and environmentally sound.
Low VOC Paints
Low VOC paints conform to the EPA guidelines and their VOC content ranges between 250 grams per liter (latex-based paints) to 380 grams per liter (oil-based paints). Paints with lower VOC content (between 0-100 grams per liter) are also available. Water-based paints use water instead of organic compounds to dissolve ingredients but may still contain up to 10 % VOCs.
As a general rule oil-based (or organic solvent-based) paints are best avoided in favor of water-based, acrylic, or latex-based paints.
Green Paint Certification
Several organizations offer green certification for eco-friendly paints. They include:
- Green Wise
The Coatings Research Group certifies products with the Green Wise label. Green Wise certified products are relatively environmentally friendly. The VOC level in these paints is between 50 grams per liter (Flats) – 100 grams per liter (Non Flats).
- MAS certified Green
Material Analytical Services provide the MAS Certified Green mark to paints that meet or exceed their testing standards.
Three Eco-friendly Paint Companies
The following are a few of the companies offering eco-friendly interior and exterior paints for homes and businesses:
American Formulating and Manufacturing (AFM)
Safecoat paints are a product of American Formulating and Manufacturing (AFM). AFM Safecoat is the leading brand for environmentally friendly paints, stains and wood finish products. These products contain no formaldehyde, solvents, heavy metals, fungicide or mildewcide and meet norms for VOC emission. Safecoat products include natural plant oil based paint products and their Ayurveda Essence collection features a range of zero VOC colorants.
Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company
Charles Thibeau founded the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company. They use milk protein in conjunction with clay, lime and natural pigments like ochre, lampblack and iron oxide to produce milk paint available in a range of 20 colors. The paint is produced in small batches, contains no biocides and is VOC free. The original milk paint was meant for wood products and masonry. Safepaint is another product designed for use on non-porous surfaces like sheet rock and painted walls.
Earth Safe Finishes
Earth Safe Finishes is an entrepreneurial venture of Nancy Burkhart. It has a range of completely VOC free products developed by Nancy Burkhart and Jessica Arellano. Their product range includes sealers, varnishes, wall paint, fabric paint, shimmers and stains.
Main Image Credit –LoLren