Most conventional paints and coatings
contain and emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Some types of VOCs
contribute to smog, and many VOCs are emitted or “offgassed” indoors and
contribute to indoor air pollution. VOCs can cause respiratory problems and
some are known carcinogens.
I have written a 4-page overview
of VOCs and other toxicity issues related to paints and other types of
coatings. For the free download, just click on this link:
How to Select
Less-Toxic, Low-VOC Paints, Primers, Stains, and Coatings [PDF,
Fortunately, almost every major paint
manufacturer (and retailer) now has a low-VOC or zero-VOC wall paint product
line. Most of these products are also low-odor, as some VOCs are responsible
for to that noxious “new paint smell.”
I maintain an online product
listing of Low-VOC
and Zero-VOC Wall Paints, which I recently updated. Most paint
products on the market are synthetic (e.g., latex/acrylic/vinyl) paints. But my
listing also includes natural paints
(i.e., plant- or mineral-based, non-synthetic paints).
A few paint manufacturers, such as AFM Safecoat and YOLO Colorhouse formulate their
entire line of paints and primers to be low- or zero-VOC and low-toxic. While
most low-VOC paints are interior paints, some brands (including those two) also
offer low-VOC exterior paints.
My listing indicates which paint lines
have been Green Seal certified or SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certified. GreenGuard also certifies paints; it has a
basic Indoor Air Quality Certified program, as well as a more stringent Children and Schools Certified program. All of these certification programs are
primarily focused on testing products’ VOC emissions.
Unfortunately, synthetic paints (even the low-
and zero-VOC options) often contain other toxic compounds, beyond VOCs, such as
phthalates (which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals), certain heavy metals, propylene glycol and glycol ethers (PGEs),
and toxic biocides or fungicides. (Green Seal’s certification standard prohibits the use of some of those compounds.)
See this Pharos article for additional information on paint toxicity.
More information and links are provided
in my overview (PDF).
is an accomplished writer, editor, and sustainability advisor with
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