How to be friendly to the environment when re-decorating and still have a beautiful and long-lasting interior paint job.
How Are Paints Changing?: Paint companies in the US and the world have been working feverishly to come up with the optimal coating to do two main things: minimize the impact on air quality and deliver maximum performance. They are also developing compositions without deadly or carcinogenic components, such as lead, in their paint products. No lead compounds have been used in paint since 1977.
Clean Air Act: In 1996, Revisions to the Clean Air Act demanded that paint manufacturers do something about volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOC’s are solvents that help the paint dry quickly, provide a smooth finish, flow easily and promote leveling and curing. They helped control thickness, hardness, and smoothness of a typical application.
What’s wrong with VOC’s?: The problem with VOC’s is that when they evaporate, they contribute to the creation of ozone, a common pollutant, and potential safety hazard. The amount of VOC’s in traditional latex paint typically falls between 200 to 300 grams per liter. Traditional solvent-based alkyds may have 400-500 g/L, and clear finishes, varnishes, shellacs, stains, and lacquers are generally in the VOC range of 350-750 g/L.
Paint Products to Consider: An few excellent examples of high-quality paint products with low VOC’s are:
- Sherwin Williams® DurationTM Interior
- Sherwin Williams® HarmonyTM Interior
- Sherwin Williams® PrepRiteTM Primers
- Benjamin Moore NaturaTM
- California ElementsTM
Regarding performance, generally, as the VOC content goes down, the flowability and dried smoothness reduce and the overall ease of painting goes down. However, scrubability and abrasion resistance are much improved for the paints listed above. Products are improving rapidly and may become what we as painters desire for our customers very soon.
It’s vitally important that you consult with and only hire painters who have taken the time to educate themselves on the laws that recently changed. You as a homeowner can be held responsible if an uncertified product crosses state borders and is opened by a painter on your property. Rest assured the local health departments will be more vigilant than ever in the upcoming season. Expect to see them checking labels for old and non-local (non-conforming) products. Choose your products and painting contractors wisely.