07 June, 2009

Low VOC Paints

When you think about painting your place, most of you will get a slightly controversial picture - a renovating thrill on one hand and worry about paint odour and level of chemical it contains on other hand.

Why is Paint Toxic?
Conventional paints release petroleum based solvents, called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) as they dry and cure. These VOCs are used as solvents in the paint and include such toxic compounds as benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, toluene, and xylene, all of which can pose a risk to your health.

Think of a petrol station on a hot day – sometimes you can see the petrol ‘haze’ or fumes coming from the nozzle. This is the petrol volatilising, becoming a gas. Petrol is toxic, and we are usually careful not to breathe it in. Paints are also toxic, but it’s difficult not to breathe it in when it’s in the building you are living in.

How VOCs affects us?
VOCs affect us in many different ways. We use aromatherapy oils to alter our mood – lavender to relax etc. Our bodies can usually tell when VOCs are good or bad for us – we recoil at the smell of methane, chlorine and car exhausts. Paint smell is not a delightful sensation either.
The VOCs in paint can trigger headaches/migraines, nausea, allergy, asthma, irritation of the eyes, nose or skin, dizziness, and even convulsions or nerve damage.

Low Toxic Paint Alternatives
Lower VOC paint do not ‘outgas’, they do not make the air in our homes toxic and they are low odour. Today all of the major paint brands (such as Dulux, Taubmans, Wattyl , and some smaller brands producing water-based acrylics and enamel paint with VOC levels of around 5-10%.

Strata Building and VOCs
High-rise buildings and larger unit blocks often have long enclosed corridors with no natural ventilation. So the smell and air pollution of enamel paint can stay here for weeks. Low VOCs water-based enamel paints are a fantastic alternative to conventional enamel paint for all internal woodwork.

Ol’ Painting has been using low VOC paint for few years. Just recently we completed internal painting of "Paladium" - a large 279-unit strata title building at Pyrmont.

Being a relatively new section of industry VOCs paint not perfect. See this article in Pros an Cons of low VOC paints. But this sector of paints is developing and improving very quickly. I believe that in a close future most of paints will become low VOC.

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