Build for the environment, build for sustainability, build for your future.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Non-Toxic Paint: A Smart Environmental Alternative


There is no doubt that a fresh coat of paint brightens up a lot of things, and your walls are no exception. Whether you live in an apartment or house or condo, your walls will definitely benefit from the TLC that a new paintjob can bring. One of the unfortunate downsides of a fresh coat of paint is the noxious odor and harmful compounds in traditional paints.

One type of paint that is growing in popularity is non-toxic paint. This is also sometimes called non-VOC, with the VOC standing for “volatile organic compounds.” As paint dries, it releases solvents into the air. These solvents are the VOCs, and they are the reason that you are always advised to make sure the room you are painting in is ventilated properly. VOCs are what make the paint smell bad, and they can cause dizziness, headaches, or worse – the Environmental Protection Agency suspects that certain types of VOCs can lead to cancer.

The advantages of using non-toxic paint are numerous. It is both safer for you and safer for the environment. You will not have to worry about breathing in those harmful chemical fumes while you paint, and later on as the paint dries.  If you or someone else in your household suffer from respiratory ailments, then this is particularly important. The last thing you need is the problems that can arise from chemical fumes irritating and aggravating a respiratory condition.

Further, if you are concerned about the environment, you’ll be pleased to know that while non-toxic paint is safer for you, it is also safer for the great outdoors. These paints need not be classified as hazardous waste when you dispose of them, because they are lacking in the ingredients that make other paint unsafe. In fact, some of them are even made from edible components like milk.

Non-toxic paints often dry faster than their more harmful counterparts, and you will often find they are much less expensive, too but, as with anything, there are some caveats to keep in mind. The first is that even though a particular can of paint may claim to be low-VOC or VOC-free on the label, it might not actually be telling the truth. Paint products are not as strictly regulated as other chemical-based items are, so some unscrupulous manufacturers may put things on the label that are untrue. As long as the paint contains less than .5% VOCs, then it is legal to market it as non-toxic in the U.S.  To avoid this pitfall, do careful research and only buy paint from companies you know and can trust.

Now, when you do find paint that has the low level of VOCs you want, you should also be aware that adding color to it will raise the VOC level. This can be avoided by not changing the color when you buy it, of course, but then you are very limited in terms of choices. The market will eventually catch up, but as things stand now, the range of colors available to you is not as wide as it is with other types of paint.

Non-toxic paint is a smart choice when you want something that is going to be safe for you and the world around you. As long you are not concerned with getting a really unique color for your walls, then there are few drawbacks for you when you opt for the non-toxic route and there is a good chance you will be pleased with the results.

List of Non-Toxic Paint Manufacturers:

Safe Coat primers, paints and sealers - by American Formulating and manufacturing (AFM)

Bio Shield paints and stains

Genesis odor-free paint: from Duron

Milk-based (casein) paints and natural pigments: by the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company

ProMaster paint: by Glidden/ICI

Livos non-toxic paint and thinners at

Tempo paint: from McCormick Paint Company

Posted by casey on 02/13 at 01:14 AM
BuildingDesignPaints and Coatings


Register as a new member to leave a comment.