Jun 5, 2013 2:45 PM  PST

GreenPointers: Paints and Coatings

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GreenPointers: Paints and Coatings

Our series of GreenPointers provides helpful tips for a healthier, greener home in a variety of topics. Today's topic is Paints and Coatings.
Green Pointers

Have you ever walked into a freshly painted room and noticed a strong smell? That odor is caused by the evaporation of volatile organic compounds. VOCs are a large class of chemicals that readily offgas from many building materials and products.

Exposure to VOCs may cause a range of symptoms, from eye irritation and headaches to more severe effects. Besides affecting indoor air quality, certain VOCs react with other chemicals in the atmosphere, producing ground-level ozone (better known as smog) that can affect human health.

The good news is that zero- and low-VOC interior paints are now commonly available from most major suppliers at costs comparable to conventional products. They are applied and perform like conventional products. Zero-VOC paint isn't currently available for exterior painting projects, although low-VOC paint is. If you're planning to paint the outside of your home, another good green choice is recycled-content paint.

Here are a few tips for painting your home.

Step 1


  In homes built before 1978, older layers of interior and exterior paint may contain lead. The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Lead, a toxic metal, can cause a range of serious health problems, especially in children six years old and under. Lead-based paint that is in good condition isn't considered a health hazard, but if it is peeling, chipping or cracking, it needs immediate attention. Also, lead dust can be spread through a home during remodeling projects that involve sanding, scraping or cutting through surfaces painted with lead-based paint. For information on how to check your home and family for lead and how to hire certified lead-based paint professionals to remove lead hazards, go to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website, www.epa.gov/lead.

Step 2


  VOC levels are generally reported for the base paint before the product is tinted. Most tints are synthetic and add some VOCs, although a few brands have true zero-VOC tints. Because of the VOCs in tints, saturated colors usually have higher levels of volatiles than light colors. Some manufacturers only offer low-VOC paints with light and moderate tints.

Step 3


  Many people, especially those with chemical sensitivities, can have adverse reactions to paints and other coatings. Low- and zero-VOC coatings may not prevent these reactions. Although low and zero-VOC coatings can contain lower levels of potentially toxic chemicals, most coatings are not entirely free of toxins. Coating products do not typically list all ingredients on the label. If you are concerned about potentially toxic ingredients, refer to the product's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). An MSDS provides toxicity, flammability, safe use and hazards information. Manufacturers are required to provide MSDS upon request and most make them readily available on their websites.

Step 3


  As an alternative to conventional paint, tinted gypsum plaster and natural clay plaster can be a less-toxic interior finish option.

Step 3


  Proper paint and coating application will help keep your home healthier. Allow sufficient ventilation and airing out of the areas during and after painting or coating to reduce exposure to VOCs. In addition to choosing low- and zero-VOC paints, stains and coatings, minimize potential indoor air quality concerns by choosing products that are factory finished whenever possible. For example, if you are buying new hardwood flooring material, choose a factory-sealed product rather than one that requires sealing after installation in your home.

Step 3


  To improve durability and make cleaning easier in rooms that take a lot of abuse, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and mud rooms, use a semi-gloss or high-gloss paint.

Learn more about paint and coatings.

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For additional information on this article, please contact:
Gary Ting
Source: GreenPoint Rated  

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