When it comes to fixing up a new home, or giving your current home a makeover, one of the biggest jobs is painting. There are a few things to consider when choosing a paint for each room. The color, (obviously) is usually the main concern, followed by maybe the durability of the paint. What about the impact the paint has on the environment? In this article from National Geographic, conventional paint and Eco-friendly paints are compared.
Difference Between Eco Friendly & Normal Paint
Although paint is available in a rainbow of colors, not all paints are green. As a rule, it’s easy to spot the difference between an eco-friendly paint and a conventional paint: just pop open the lid and take a whiff. The familiar fresh paint odor of a conventional paint consists of a variety of greenhouse gases and other environmentally harmful chemicals that are released to the atmosphere as the paint is applied. In contrast, eco-friendly paints emit little or no environmentally unsafe materials into the air.
Conventional Paint and VOCs
When you open a can of conventional paint what you’ll see is a creamy blend of plasticizers, adhesives, hardeners, pigments, biocides, drying accelerators, solvents and more. The solvents used in conventional paints are Volatile Organic Compounds. VOCs help hold the ingredients in a blended state while the paint is liquid, but they escape to the air when the paint is applied. Outdoors, VOCs combine with other airborne pollutants to create smog. Indoors, VOCs and plasticizers contribute to unhealthy indoor air, and extended exposure to these hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) can lead to respiratory and metabolic illness, headaches and a host of other disorders. Conventional paints may
continue emitting trace portions of VOCs, biocides and plasticizers for more than a year after application
EPA regulations allow interior water-based house paints, for instance, to contain up to 250 grams of VOCs per liter of paint. Many communities have set the bar lower; in San Francisco, flat wall paint is limited to 50 grams per liter (g/L). Some paint brands feature house paints with 50 g/L VOCs, and paints that are free of VOCs altogether are now common as well. Paint companies often tout these products as an environmentally friendly option, but the eco-reality is a bit more complicated. These products may still contain HAPs, and adding colorants to some low-VOC paints can kick the VOC measurement up as high as 190 g/L
Certified Green Paint
While paints with reduced levels of VOCs are more eco-friendly than conventional paints, some house paints have an even lower environmental impact. Homeowners can select premium-grade zero-VOC paints that also use VOC-free colorants, are free of vinyl and other plasticizers and include no toxic biocides. Independent organizations such as Green Seal, Greenguard and Ecolabel test paints to ensure that they have met the highest standards of eco-friendly performance. You can recognize these paints by the environmental
certification seal on their label
Casein paints are made primarily from milk proteins, lime, and non-toxic pigments. This may be the most eco-friendly paint available, but it’s not without some practical drawbacks: the paint is not nearly as durable as modern coatings and color choices are limited. Casein paints are usually supplied in powder form and should be mixed with water immediately before application. These paints were commonly used in 18th and 19th century American homes in locations such as colonial Williamsburg