Selecting Environmentally-friendly and Low-VOC Paints for Healthier Indoor Air Quality

Air pollution is a demon of the city — it haunts everyone, increases the risk of respiratory illness, and generally makes life miserable for anybody with even the most minor lung-related issue.

It is a huge problem that cities are tirelessly working to improve, but it shouldn’t extend to your home, the place where you relax and let yourself be. But how can you ensure good air quality in your home?

You could start by making several changes, and the first of those is ensuring your paint is VOC free. But what is that? How does low-VOC paint affect air quality? Let’s find out.

Does Paint Affect Indoor Air Quality?
The short answer: yes. Paints containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like glycol, formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, and hexane are the primary cause of poor indoor quality. VOCs are gasses emitted during painting and while the paint dries.

VOCs can cause several health problems, such as:

  • Eye irritation
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Cancer.

What Are Low-VOC or Zero-VOC Paints?
Low-VOC paints, as the name suggests, are paints with lower quantities of VOCs, like hexane and glycol. They contain less than 50 grams per liter of VOCs and zero extra solvents and additives.

These paints are also more sustainable and less harmful to the environment compared to traditional paints. But this doesn’t mean they’re completely harmless. They still have a few toxic compounds.

In contrast, zero-VOC paints contain less than 5 grams per liter of VOCs and zero extra solvents and additives. However, you rarely find zero-VOC paints — especially those that are colored — because even adding the barest amount of pigment can increase the number of VOCs in paint to above 10 grams per liter.

3 Tips for Choosing Paint That Improves Indoor Air Quality
Here are three tips for choosing paints that improve indoor air quality:

1. Look for “Non-Toxic” or “Natural” Labels
When you’re buying paint, don’t just snatch the bucket off the shelf and high-tail towards the check-out. Instead, inspect the paint box. Are there any “non-toxic” or “natural” labels on the packaging?
If you do, you should buy it. If you don’t, put it back on the shelf. It likely contains around 250 grams of VOCs per liter of paint, the primary cause of most respiratory problems in NYC.

2. Check the VOC Percentage on Paint Drums
If you want to know (without a doubt) whether the paint you’re using (and have been using) has lower levels of VOCs, you should check the back of the paint drum. Nowadays, most manufacturers list the amount of VOCs present in paint on their packaging.

You can use this information to check whether the paint you’re buying is VOC free. Here’s a rule to remember: any paints containing less than 5 grams of VOCs will be VOC-free, while those with less than 50 grams of VOCs will be low-VOC.

3. Consult with a Paint Contractor
If you can’t find low- or zero-VOC paint in your local store and online searches reveal zip, you could contact a painting contractor in NYC to help you find paint that’s actually not terrible for your home’s air quality.
They will also let you know how to use it properly and give you tips on making sure it lasts as long as the VOC-rich paint you’re probably used to.

Wrapping Up
Figuring out what kinds of paint don’t make your home’s air quality worse can be a headache. But they’re a necessary headache because they can help you stop yourself from getting sick and don’t cause as much air pollution.
But if terms like low-VOC make you want to scratch your head, or you just don’t like painting because you think it’s work-intensive (it is) or dirty (also true) but still want your home to be safe from all VOC-infused paints, why not get a contractor do it for you?

They’ll be fast, efficient, and know exactly what to do. Plus, if you hire a contractor to splash paint all over your NYC apartment, you save the hassle of researching dozens of brands, reaching several thousand reviews, and trawling the internet to find the best deals.

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