You’re probably used to buying paint either by the brand name or by the color, like Benjamin Moore, or blue.
But when it comes to covering your walls and ceiling, there’s a much more important decision you should be making, and that has to do with the chemicals actually used to make the paint itself.
One of the most toxic is actually a group collectively referred to as “volatile organic compounds,” or VOCs.
VOCs are a large group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature, which makes them easy to inhale. One of the most common sources of VOCs in our homes is household paint. VOCs are used as solvents, or thinners, that work together with the resins that bind together all the ingredients of the paint and gets them to stick on the wall. In other words, they may improve performance and durability, explains DunnEdwards.com here.
However, the VOCs “off gas”into the air as the paint dries. Most people can smell high levels of some VOCS, though other VOCs have no odor. Odor does not indicate how dangerous the chemicals are, says the Minnesota Department of Health. Regardless of how badly they smell,many VOCs,which can include formaldehyde, acetone, benzene and perchloroethylene, canmake you sick in a variety of ways.
That’s why I’ve pulled together this list of 6 reasons why you should never use paint that contains VOCs again.
1) Worsen symptoms of asthma. If you already suffer from asthma, inhaling air contaminated with VOCs could trigger an asthmatic reaction. Scientists studied 400 toddlers and preschoolers and discovered that children who breathed in fumes from water-based paints and solvents are two to four times more likely to suffer allergies or asthma.
2) Create flu-like symptoms. Even if you don’t get asthma from breathing in paint fumes, you could experience runny nose, itchy eyes, joint pain and other symptoms that strongly resemble the flu.Solvents that evaporate into the air from the paint are inhaled, absorbed into the lungs and then into the blood stream. They can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and make you feel like you’ve contracted the flu.
3) Potentially cause cancer. Many chemicals in the VOC family are considered carcinogenic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Professional painters have a 20 percent increased risk of contracting a range of cancers, especially lung cancer, says the World Health Organization.
4) Get dizzy and black out. Sometimes the chemicals that off-gas in VOC-laden paint are so overpowering, they cause people to get very dizzy and in extreme cases, black out. This could be particularly dangerous if you were at the top of a ladder, perhaps painting a ceiling, where you were inhaling paint fumes very close to the source.
5) Suffer infertility problems – A study from Sheffield and Manchester University suggested that men regularly exposed to chemicals in paint may be more prone to fertility problems. Painters and decorators are the primary victims. However, the researchers found a 250 percent increase in “risk of sperm motility” among men exposed to the chemicals widely used as solvents in water-based paints, which could give any guy pause about using paints that contain VOCs.
6) Get “painter’s dementia” – In addition to increased likelihood of getting lung cancer, painters can develop a neurological condition brought on by long-term exposure to paint solvents called “painter’s dementia.”
What You Can Use Instead
You could decide to forego paints that contain VOCs because it’s the right thing to do for your painter!
Increasingly, you can buy paint that contains no VOCs online and from stores that specialize in healthy green building supplies. Consumer Reports offers this helpful guide to VOC content to look for when you shop; if you’re a subscriber, you can see how they rate various no- or low-VOC paints that are available in the marketplace.
Most major brands, including Home Depot, Benjamin Moore and Pittsburgh Paints, make a no-VOC option. Just be careful when the paint is mixed, as the base paint could be no-VOC but the color pigment could contain VOCs. You want the entire mixture to be no-VOC.
Water-based paints will have less VOCs in them than oil-based paints. However, there’s no guarantee that just because a paint is water-based that it will be VOC-free. You must explicitly ask for no-VOC paint before you buy.
Regardless of the paint you use, make sure the room or house is well-ventilated while it is being painted. Turn on fans and open windows and doors. If possible, do not sleep in a room that has been freshly painted; especially don’t sleep in or use a room if the paint on the walls isn’t completely dry. If you wake up with a headache or discomfort, do not sleep in the room for a couple of days, until you’re sure it’s fragrance-free.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.
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