The harmful effects of VOCs on indoor air quality have received a lot of attention in recent years. In response, paint manufacturers have formulated a wealth of low- or no-VOC coatings. Here’s how to be a smart consumer and choose paints that are good for your health, your home, and the environment.
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Start by reading the label on the paint can. Acceptable VOC concentrations vary from state to state, but one of the more stringent standards stipulates a VOC concentration in flat paint of no more than 50 grams per liter (g/L). But remember: A base paint may be low- or no-VOC, but added tints may contain VOCs. Before you ask for a custom mix, ask about the VOCs in the tint.
If you’re prepared to spend a little more, you can seek out one of the specialty producers that offer natural paint. These formulas draw on historic—in some cases, ancient—recipes that incorporate ingredients like milk, chalk, clay and natural pigments. These paints may require special handling or application, so read the manufacturer’s directions carefully.
The first paints with low or no VOCs got a bad rap for being difficult to apply or requiring extended drying times. Most of the better paint brands have solved these problems and now offer products that go on as easily and perform as well as their traditional VOC-containing counterparts.
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