Breathe in, breathe out. Taking a deep breath to enjoy the fresh air while you’re surrounded by trees is inevitable. But can you do the same thing at your own home? How sure are you that the air inside, the air that surrounds you day in and day out, is safe?
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that the air inside our homes is three times more polluted than the outside air, and that paints and finishes are some of the top contributors to this hazard.
We all know that the smell of paint can be toxic – that’s why we wear face masks to protect ourselves while paint is being applied to our walls. However, what most people aren’t aware of is that paints and finishes continue to release low level toxic emissions inside the home years after they have been applied. This is because the effectivity of many paints and finishes in the past relied heavily on toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Fortunately, awareness of the hazards of paints and finishes, and current environmental regulations has persuaded manufacturers to develop low-VOC and zero-VOC paints and finishes.
Not only are non-toxic paints and finishes safe for both the environment and people, they are cost-effective, durable and are easily to washed off since they are water-based. They are not considered to be hazardous waste.
So, what does non-toxic mean? Does this mean that non-toxic paints and finishes are so safe that you can consume them and not have anything happen to you? Uhh, no.
“Non-toxic” is used broadly. The term deals more with toxicity levels, rather than a claim that paints or finishes are not toxic at all. Even paints and finishes that are said to have zero-VOC have some miniscule amounts of toxins. “Non-toxic” simply means that they are safe for usage and breathing, but they’re unsafe for drinking. Just being logical here.
Non-toxic paints and finishes are divided into three categories – namely, Natural Paints and Finishes, Zero VOC and Low VOC.
Natural paints and finishes are considered to be the safest and most environmentally friendly since they are made from natural raw ingredients such as water, plant oils and dyes, and natural minerals such as chalk and clay.
Paints and finishes with zero VOC are those which have been tested by the EPA and have been found to have 5 grams/liter or less of VOCs. Although some manufacturers claim that their paints and finishes have “zero VOC”, some may use biocides, colorants and fungicides that contain VOC.
Low VOC paints, on the other hand, contain less than 200 grams/liter of VOCs, while varnishes and finishes contain less than 300 grams/liter.
Choosing the right kind of non-toxic paint is as vital as breathing. After all, the paint that you apply to the interior of your home affects your breathing itself.
So, breathe in and breathe out. You may not be surrounded by mountains, but at least you’re sure your air is safe.