Choosing a Nontoxic Paint
Low VOC Paint Options
Ask A Healer Green Living articles
Nontoxic Paint Options
by N J Howell
air freshener safety
about air fiters
This is part four of a six-part article on detoxing your home. It will be helpful to start at the beginning, if you have reached this page directly from a search engine search or a eco-friendly link.
detoxing your home, part one.
Tip about paint color and toxicity:
If you order low VOC paints from a reputable green living store, they will probably tell you that adding color may add toxicity. In general, the lighter the color, with white being optimal, the less toxicity may be present in a green, or low voc, paint. Don't assume that requesting a custom color blend, which is anything darker than basic white, is the same as ordering the untreated paint. Ask about toxicity levels in different colors.
About Nontoxic, Low VOC Paints:
So how toxic are paints? Well, acrylic paints can contain as much as 30 percent solvents. Enamel paints are even higher in voc levels. I don't know about you but I'd just as soon not be breathing that! Paint toxicity is a bigger concern with old houses, or remodels of pre-1978 homes, than with newer buildings because more is now known about the dangers of paints containing lead and some other harmful solvents.
Before you go down to the local hardware store and buy a can full of chemicals and spread it all over your walls, explore the internet
and look for low VOC paints (or better yet, zero voc, which means they have less than 5 grams per litre) in colors that will not torture you while you apply them. Fumes from high-voc paints can be harmful to your family, especially those with compromised respiratory systems and the very young.
AFM makes some low voc paints but I don't think they are milk-based so if that appeals to you, you can even make your own. Making a milk-based paint (actually they are made from casein, extracted from milk and lime -- not the lime you use with tequila but the chalky kind) may be more steps than just using a low voc paint but these milk-based paints are apparently the very best for those with chemical sensitivities.
I was simply thrilled to learn that there are nontoxic paint options. You can buy low-voc paints almost anywhere now or, like I said, make your own from casein. I read somewhere (sorry, I can't find the site again) that you can even add berries of different kinds to create different colors.
If you have severe sensitivities, it might be worth the extra effort to create your own paint. That way, you know exactly what is in it. However, if that's just too overwhelming an idea, it's good to know that you can get low-voc paint online. There are also several sites that sell it.
You can also find good advice online, about other nontoxic alternatives for building or remodeling your home.
Continue with the green living articles... part five: carpet outgassing
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Health Disclaimer: If you have acute allergies or chemical sensitivities, there may be no option that is guaranteed not to bother you while applying. You may need to hire someone to do the actual painting and stay out of the residence for a few days after, even with low VOC paints or other green living alternatives. Be wise and self-monitoring when working with any type of chemical compounds, even nontoxic ones.