Is there really such a thing as non toxic paint?
Traditional house paint contains many chemical solvents, which release into the atmosphere during curing and evaporation. This is often called “outgassing” and may take place over a period of several months or longer, leaving sickly fumes and often health issues in their wake.
The release of these VOCs, short for Volatile Organic Compounds, have many ill effects, including ozone depletion and smog in addition to the effect on the humans immediately in the vicinity.
You’ve likely heard of the availability of either low VOC paint or no VOC paint. By definition, these products contain either a limited amount of the volatile compounds, or none at all.
The problem is that so-called painting experts insist that paints without these compounds don’t work as well as paint that carries them. Their arguments state that they paint won’t last as long, and more coats are required to get the same coverage.
Even though they argue these points, the facts are that VOCs are linked to a number of dangerous human effects, including dizziness, headaches, throat irritation, breathing difficulties and asthma, and the public is demanding an alternative. The painting industry has little choice but to heed the cry.
One potential solution is to use what we call latex, or water based paint, which has an acrylic resin, which holds the mixture together. Besides being more environmentally safe, water based paint has a number of other advantages over traditional color coatings including easier wash-ability and the ability to cover other colors easily.
There are some limitations though – for instance, latex can’t be used to paint iron, because the water base will enhance the rusting process. Still, the demand is growing and new inventions are springing up all over the painting world.
The term “green paint”, or eco friendly paint, can refer not only to the components of the paint itself, but also the manufacturing process.
Titanium dioxide is touted in many paints for it’s white hue, and also because it helps to add covering power to the coats. This is sometimes called the “refractive index” of the paint substance. If this index is high, then the paint will provide better coverage.
However, titanium dioxide is formed in a Sulphate and Chloride process that actually results in diluted Sulphuric acid being created as a by product. This can then be dispersed into the water supply, which of course, calls the safety into question.
Apart from this obvious issue, titanium dioxide reacts with sunlight – when used in outdoor paint – causing a problem with smog. The IARC, International Agency for research on Cancer has classified this substance as a Group 2b carcinogen, which implies is likely an agent leading to the development of cancer in human beings. In spite of all of this evidence, titanium dioxide continues to be widely used.
Traditional paint has serious health consequences as well as environmental dangers both in its manufacture as well as in its use. For this reason, non toxic paint will continue to have a big impact on the painting industry.
If you are looking to paint your home, do your research. Be sure to specifically request low or no VOC paint and protect your family from this preventable health hazard.
To read my personal story of a chemical reaction to paint and subsequent conversion to non toxic paint, see New Construction Materials.
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