When painting and doing other projects around the house this spring be sure to use your least toxic options. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals used as solvents in many household products. VOCs readily evaporate at room temperature and can cause a range of negative health effects including headaches, fatigue, visual disorders, and difficulty breathing—many are neurotoxins. Some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.
Some of the most hazardous VOCs found in paint supplies include: benzene, a known human carcinogen; formaldehyde, a preservative shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans; and methylene chloride, known to cause cancer in animals. According to the U.S. EPA, methylene chloride (paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints) is converted to carbon monoxide in the body and can cause symptoms associated with exposure to carbon monoxide.
Fortunately, natural paint options abound. Most are available on-line or by mail order. Colors are achieved with mineral pigments or plant dyes. Paints are based upon raw ingredients such as clay, chalk, casein milk solids, lime, marble, linseed oil, castor oil, or beeswax, etc. Many of these companies offer additional non-toxic products such as sealers, paint strippers, finishes, wood filler, exterior paint, and more.
For convenience without the VOCs, look no further than your corner store. Most local paint stores now offer a low-VOC or VOC-free line of interior paint. While less toxic and less odorous than standard options, this paint may still contain synthetic colorants, biocides, and fungicides.
Natural (low or no VOCs and free of biocides, fungicides, and synthetic colorants)
Zero VOC (may contain synthetic colorants, biocides, and fungicides)
For more information:
Published on March 22, 2008