Monday, July 20, 2009


Paint is everywhere and on everything. It is the most common and popular home repair made within a home or office. So what is Paint? Paint is mixed with four basic ingredients: Pigments, Resins, Solvents, and Additives. There are numerous hazardous chemicals in conventional paint. The US Environmental Protection Agency even classes paint as one of the Top Five environmental hazards. Due to the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which are derived from petrochemicals and readily release vapour into the air, which causes serious affects on the air quality. Chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene are the main hazards in this off gassing process. To add to this, paint drying indoors is 1000 times more hazardous than paint drying outdoors. The VOC can be released into the air for months at a time, and sometimes, even years after painting. The common VOC risks witnessed in the majority of people are dizziness, drowsiness, allergic reactions, headaches, and perhaps skin problems; however there are much greater health risks linked to this silent killer in ones home.

What are the long term health risks that paint can cause? Studies have shown that painters, or similar occupations that placed people in the atmosphere of constant paint VOC, have a 20% higher risk for cancers in general and a 40% higher risk for lung cancer. The long- term health affects to a paints VOC are constantly related to an array of cancers. Amongst the many are liver cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, larynx cancer, pancreatic cancer, oral cavity cancer, and esophagus cancer.

A large-scale study done in 2001 connects freshly painted rooms with children’s leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It states that children specifically exposed to fresh paint in the home have a 65% greater risk of acquiring acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In addition, mothers who are exposed to paint during preconception or the pregnancy phase are three times more at risk of having a child with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Exposure can also cause developmental problems in the unborn child. Studies have shown that paints VOC can also instigate a low sperm count. On the whole, these chemicals are hazardous to male fertility.

Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC) is widely used as ingredients in many common household products. Shockingly, these include; paints, varnishes, waxes, cleaning supplies, degreasing and disinfecting supplies, cosmetic materials, and fuels. These organic pollutants are said to be 2 to 5 times greater inside of the home than outside of them, despite the homes rural or industrial location. Products containing organic chemicals expose people to high pollutant levels in which elevated concentrations can persist in the air for years. However, in today’s environmentally concerned society, there are now efficient products that can protect individuals and their loved ones. One very environmentally significant product is non-toxic or natural paint. This paint is made from natural ingredients such as water, plant oils, plant dyes, milk protein, natural latex, bees wax, earth and mineral dyes, and minerals such as clay. These paints remain the safest type of paint accessible and are considered the most environmentally friendly. However because this type of paint is a new product on the market, the performance is not yet comparable to the performance of regular paints, especially when it comes to coverage and user friendliness. Non- toxic or natural paint tends to be more difficult to find in regular stores and are mostly found online. Ultimately, when it comes to our health an inconvenience like this should be welcomed.

The best way to reduce one's exposure is to choose low-VOC paint. Fifty percent of petrochemicals are used in conventional oil-based paints, while only 5-51% is found in water based latex paints. Regardless of this, they can still contain harmful solvents. In order to protect the air quality and ones health, the consumer must purchase low-VOC paint, which means the VOC levels are less than 100 parts per gallon. The low VOC label on the can means that the manufacturer has not exceeded a certain level of chemicals that are cancer causing. It is also extremely important that consumers be attentive of a “no-VOC” label on the paint can. This deceptive advertisement is purely a marketing ploy. All conventional paints will contain VOC to some extent.

With a number of health risks linked to paint, consumers must start being more conscientious of their purchases. Reading the labels on their cans and realizing that cheap is not always effective will be a good start. One’s health is something that should not be a daily risk. You pay for what you get so don’t cheap out when it comes to quality and ones well- being,

Stay green and until next time,
Jo Alcorn, w&c designer girl!

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