It’s a new year, and you’re thinking of repainting several rooms in your house. Before you head to the store, you may want to consider more than the room colors.
When it comes to air quality, not all paints are created equally. In fact, paint can have a huge impact on the indoor air quality for months after the first coat has been applied, thanks to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) included in many paints.
VOCs are carbon compounds (such as benzene, toluene, and formaldehyde) that vaporize at room temperature, and have a detrimental effect on human health, according to the US Green Building Council.
These chemicals damages lung tissue, reduces lung function, and sensitizes the lungs to other irritants and can cause eye, nose and throat irritations, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment. Some VOC’s are even known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans, according to the EPA. Thus, they are not something you want in your house.
Contributing to the potential danger is that, on average, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, either at work or at home.
Fortunately, almost every paint manufacturer makes paints and primers that come in zero-VOC or low-VOC. For example, Sherwin Williams Harmony line and Benjamin Moore’s EcoSpec line both contain low or zero VOCs.
To find others, just look for ones that meet GreenSeal standards, which are 50 mg/L of VOCs for flat paint and 150 mg/L for non-flat. (GreenSeal is an independent, non-profit organization that promotes the use of environmentally responsible products. Anything with a GreenSeal certification ensures that a product meets rigorous, science-based environmental leadership standards).
If your paint doesn’t comply with GreenSeal standards, just return it for paint that does. After all, it will help both you and your family breathe a little easier.