You’re thinking about painting floors or need a clear varnish for the deck. Maybe it’s exterior porch paint or your painting floors indoors. Whatever you’re doing you, you want to know about the health effects of VOCs and just why you should choose environmentally friendly paints and varnishes.
What are VOCs?
The issue with most paints is the presence of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These are chemicals that can evaporate at room temperature, and nearly two-thirds of the VOCs released into our environment come from pains and coatings. This is especially true with oil-based paints.
What do VOCs do?
They can have an array of nasty effects. They can cause nausea and dizziness, or irritate the respiratory tract. They can even cause heart, lunch, and kidney damage in large enough amounts, and may contribute to cancer. VOC levels over 500ppb can cause problems for anyone who has general chemical sensitivities, and children are especially at risk.
Are VOCs the Only Problem?
Unfortunately, VOCs are not the only reason you want to find an eco friendly primer or environmentally friendly paint when you’re painting floors. Paints can also have harmful chemical pigments and toxic fungicides that prevent mildew and extend the shelf life of the paint.
How Much Damage Does it Really Do?
A study at the TIEQ lab put participants in a special office space for six days. The VOC levels in the space had been lowered to about 50 micrograms per cubic meter, and 40 cubic meters of outdoor air was ventilated in for each person. After the six days, they found that people were scoring 101% higher on cognitive scores than those in regular workspaces!
What Should I Do?
If you need to be painting floors or are looking for baby room safe paint, the key is to look for paint labeled low in VOCs, low in biocides, and that uses natural pigments. To be labeled “low,” a paint need only meet the EPA’s minimum requirements, which means they can still have more VOCs than you might feel personally comfortable with. A good eco friendly paint will have a data safety sheet that gives you exact numbers. Milk paint and other natural paints should be your first choice for outside paints. There are also some good low VOC latex paints, too.
What if I’ve Already Painted Floors With Regular Paint?
Most of the VOCs will probably have dissipated in flooring that’s over a year old. If you’re flooring is younger than that, or you’ve painted or stained more recently, your options are more limited. You can try painting over it with a better paint. Even better, strip off the offending paint or stain and then do it fresh with a low VOC paint. Another option is to use a sealing primer that blocks VOCs.
VOCs and other chemicals in paint can be toxic and harmful to you and your family. If you’re planning to paint or stain, be sure to get low odor paint that’s low VOC, and protect yourself from the harmful effects of VOCs.