How do I Choose the Best No VOC Paint?

Harriette Halepis

Until recently, most indoor paints contained volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds are toxic, and they can cause serious long-term respiratory problems. Today's consumers have expressed concerned over toxic VOCs, which has prompted paint companies to manufacture no VOC paint. Consumers can differentiate between toxic paint and no VOC paint by reading paint labels carefully.

A can of red paint.
A can of red paint.

Paints that are low in any volatile compounds are labeled Zero VOC, No VOC, or Natural Paint. Out of these three paints, natural paints are the healthiest choice. Natural paints are made from natural ingredients such as water, plant dye, plant oil, plant resins, and essential oils. Natural paints also have various minerals mixed into them including clay, chalk, and talcum. Natural paints that are water-based do not have any detectable odor, and natural oil-based paints often give off a pleasant citrus smell. These paints can be used in the same manner as conventional paints, though they do not pose a health risk.

Plant resin, which is used to make no VOC paint.
Plant resin, which is used to make no VOC paint.

Paints that include less than .17 ounces (4.81 grams) of VOCs are called Zero VOC paints. Zero VOC paints are chemically produced, though they do not contain harmful levels of VOC. The amount of VOCs inside of Low VOC paints can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, though they should not contain more than 7.05 ounces (199.8 grams) of VOCs. Low VOC paints are water-based rather than petroleum-based, which creates lesser toxins. Still, these paints can contain metals and formaldehyde, which may not be ideal health-wise.

While it is important for consumers to purchase no VOC paint, it is also important to avoid paints containing ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol is a toxic substance that can cause eye, ear, throat, and nose irritation. Excessive exposure to paints that contain Ethylene Glycol can permanently damage the kidneys. This ingredient can be found in many different latex paint brands.

No VOC paints can be used in exactly the same way as traditional paints. Paints that do not contain harmful VOCs can be cleaned up with soap and water if they happen to spill, and they may actually improve air quality within a home. In addition, non-toxic paints are cost-effective, since they are priced the same as regular paints.

Paints that do not contain any VOCs can be found in most major home renovation stores. Various paint manufacturers have begun to manufacture no VOC paint lines that include a variety of colors. As consumers become more environmentally and health conscious, the abundance of no VOC paint will likely rise.

Traditional paints and no VOC paints can be used in the same manner.
Traditional paints and no VOC paints can be used in the same manner.

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