How safe are paints these days?

Most paints on the market today are labelled no VOC, this is now the industry standard. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, and it refers to certain chemical solvents that release gases into the air and contribute to indoor air pollution. Low and no VOC labelling can be confusing, it doesn’t mean there are no chemicals in the paints it just means that the amount of chemicals included are under the required limit.

Volatile Organic Compounds in paints off gas while the paint is being applied and is drying. While there are much less chemicals in paints than even 10 or 15 years ago, most paints have some additives which are typically found in the tints, the self leveling agents and in the preservatives. There is a difference between low or no VOC paint and no odor paints. Paints that do not smell tend to be truly green products, they generally don’t have chemical preservatives and drying agents in them and they are made with natural tints. Here are some great products that don’t smell: Benjamin Moore’s Natura, Farrow and Ball paints and Colour House paint products. As an added bonus, all of these lines have great colour palettes. However like everything, green paints can have a down side, the lack of preservatives can make them less stable and they can be harder to apply. Luckily we have experience with these paints so if you want to go in this direction we will guarantee a great finish.

What kind of precautions should you take to protect yourself and family from Volatile Organic Compounds?

In my experience this is typically a matter of an individual comfort, some people are more sensitive to paint fumes than others. Ideally pregnant women, babies, kids, seniors and people with serious illnesses or disabilities should avoid living in a space while it is being painted but it is not the end of the world if you can’t be away while your paint job is taking place. Here are some ways to manage the fumes: paint one area completely at a time, for example if you are having your walls, ceilings, trim, doors and base boards painted, try to do everything in one room and then move on the the next room that way the paint fumes will be more contained. Choose no odor paint products (see my suggestions listed above.) Keep the windows open while painting is in progress and for a while afterwards and use fans to move the air.

For more information, here is a brief definition Volatile Organic Compounds from Wikapedia:

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. Their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate or sublimate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and enter the surrounding air, a trait known as volatility. For example, formaldehyde, which evaporates from paint and releases from materials like resin, has a boiling point of only –19 °C (–2 °F).

VOCs are numerous, varied, and ubiquitous. They include both human-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. Most scents or odors are of VOCs. VOCs play an important role in communication between plants,[1] and messages from plants to animals. Some VOCs are dangerous to human health or cause harm to the environment. Anthropogenic VOCs are regulated by law, especially indoors, where concentrations are the highest. Harmful VOCs typically are not acutely toxic, but have compounding long-term health effects. Because the concentrations are usually low and the symptoms slow to develop, research into VOCs and their effects is difficult.

And here are some links to a Health Canada and Health Link British Columbia sites that will also provide more information:

Hope this blog post has been helpful, if you have any questions please get in touch.