Indoor air pollutants are at least three times more potent than outdoor air. This is one of the top offenders when it comes to human health. The VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in paints are a leading cause. Paints release low -level toxic emissions in the air that last years after application. Those were considered essential to the performance of paint until recently, now that new technologies have allowed us to have safer paints. New regulations from the EPA as well as consumer demands have caused the paint companies to create low-VOC or even VOC- free paints and other finishes. These are cost-efficient, durable and safe for human and environmental health.
There any many benefits to VOC-free finishes. From the health perspective, there are no toxins. People who have allergies and chemical sensitivities are benefited by these, too. Environmentally, there are fewer contaminants that go from landfills into our air and water. There is no hazardous waste that can be left behind. Performance-wise, they cover well, scrub nicely and are great to touch up flaws. The cleanup is very easy because the finishes are water-based. All that is needed is just soap and water. There is very faint odor during application and none once it dries, so rooms can be occupied sooner. There are many reasons to make the switch to nontoxic finishes.
There are three main varieties of nontoxic paints: natural, low-VOC, and zero-VOC. The natural paints are made from all natural raw materials such as wax, minerals, and water. They usually have no "paint smell."Some that are oil-based in fact have nice smells from essential oils that make the paint work well. These paints are the safest for the environment as well as health. Zero-VOC paint emits less than five grams per liter. However, it is best to research the paint that is being considered as they sometimes have fungicides and other chemicals added. Low-VOC paints are paints that don't use petroleum as a base, but rather water. These paints have much fewer emissions than regular paints as a result. They also have no or extremely low levels of heavy metals such as lead and formaldehyde as well. These paints also have less than 200 grams of emissions per liter. They can have a little odor during application but none when dried. Most reputable manufacturers keep their VOCs even lower by making it only 50 grams per liter.
A little research and preparation on the consumer behalf goes a long way if you want just simple finish. Reading about the product itself will educate you on exactly why it is considered safe. Some finishes, such as shellac, which is used to give candies shine is food-grade and very safe to use as well as something that can sometimes be made at home. Some of the best products, such as mineral oils work well, too. They are safe and it is easy to wipe up any excess. EnviroCitizen.org has found that talking to a green materials expert in your area or consulting a supplier on the web such as EnviroCitizen.org can help you make a sound decision on what you will be using.