What You Need to Know About Low VOC Odorless Paints
In an interior design trends survey conducted in 2017, over one-third of respondents said they would use a neutral palette if they redecorated their homes. While a fresh and neutral coat of paint can freshen up any room (and even make smaller rooms look larger), the type of paint you use should be carefully considered before opening the can to get to work.
The smell of fresh paint is something most of us are familiar with. However, did you know that that telltale smell is actually caused by volatile organic compounds? Known commonly as VOCs, these chemicals are often found in paint (along with numerous other products) and turn to vapor when exposed to room temperature. It is the vaporization of these chemicals that cause that well-known paint smell. While the smell itself can be merely off-putting, these vaporized VOCs can actually cause a host of health issues that most people are unaware of.
The Health Effects of VOCsExposure to VOCs can cause many negative side effects. These can include dizziness, headaches, nausea, watery eyes, and even damage to the kidneys, liver, and nervous system. In the long term, it's even been linked to cancer. The good news is that low VOC odorless paints do exist as a great alternative for health-conscious homeowners. If you’ve never heard of low VOC paint, continue reading to learn why these low odor paints are an option you should seriously consider.
Why You Should Use Low VOC PaintsAccording to the EPA, the air within our homes contains certain organic levels that are three to five times that of organic levels outdoors. This can be harmful, especially for homes with elderly occupants and young children who may be more susceptible to this contamination. One of the most significant reasons to choose low VOC odorless paints is their ability to lower this contamination by reducing the number of vaporized VOCs that are released into the air.
Low VOC odorless paints are also great for reducing allergy-causing toxins that can cause flare-ups and attacks in those predisposed to respiratory reactions. These paints are also better for the environment, as you won’t have to worry about them contaminating groundwater or landfills if they are disposed of improperly. Low VOC odorless paints are also easy to clean with just soap and water. Best of all, you won't have to leave your home for an extended amount of time after painting, as you won’t have to worry about any overpowering smells.
While traditional paints that contain higher levels of VOCs are still on the market, more and more low VOC options have become available in recent years as the effects of these chemicals have become more recognized.
Things to Consider When Picking Paints
- Always Check Your Labels: It’s important not to be fooled by cans labeled "low odor." Low VOC paint is naturally low in odor because it contains no volatile organic compounds, However, the VOCs in traditional paints can be masked so that the smell is mitigated, creating a false sense of security. The negative health effects will still be present in these paints; you just won’t be able to tell by the smell. Low or zero VOC paint will always be labeled as such. Steer clear of paints that advertise "no odor" as opposed to "no VOCs."
- Understand VOC Standards: When everything is said and done, VOC levels will fluctuate depending on the type of paint you want. Even if it says "low VOC" on the can, it’s important to keep in mind that this means the paint meets EPA standards. Latex paint must have less than 250 grams per liter, while alkyds can contain up to 380 grams. If you want to ensure the lowest levels of VOCs, look for paints that contain 150 grams per liter or less.