VOC’s and Paint
You probably know your breathing in chemicals when you smell a freshly painted room, but how bad can they be? What your smelling is VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), carbon-containing compounds that vaporize into the air. Once they enter the air, they react with other elements to create ozone, which causes air pollution and health problems. You may experience breathing problems, burning or itchy eyes, headaches and nausea. VOC’s are a even linked to certain cancers. VOC’s are found in many building materials, including paint.
The specific VOC’s in each paint vary by each manufacturer. It’s hard to know if your product contains VOC’s, as the manufacturer is not required to reveal all ingredients in their product. Most colorants will add VOC’s to the finished product, even paints that are formulated to be zero VOC don’t always maintain that level when it comes time for application. Federal VOC limits are currently set at 250 grams per liter (g/l) for flat paints and 380 g/l for others, but this can vary state to state. Low-VOC is usually 50 g/l or less and no-VOC is usually 5 g/l or less.
There numbers are for the base coating, adding colorant adds VOC’s to the base, and the person mixing the paint is not going to be able to tell you how much more was added. Typically the darker the color, the higher the VOC’s. Fortunately, there are innovative color technologies available now that won’t add any VOC content when adding pigment.