Green Materials Report – Low VOC Paint

low voc paint

This post is part of the Green Materials Report series.  GBE is providing information on various building materials and what makes them green.  Each post focuses on one material.  We will be looking at the ingredients in the material, how it is used, what makes it green, and any green product certifications that it has earned.  We hope to develop a database of information to help consumers make informed choices about what goes in their buildings.  Enjoy the series!

low voc paint

Low VOC Paint

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are ingredients in paint and other products that easily evaporate into the air at low temperatures.  These chemicals can cause symptoms ranging from nasal irritation to the development of cancer.  They are used in paint to help it stay in a liquid form until it dries.  Today manufacturers have developed options for those wanting to purchase paints with little or no VOCs.

“Interior latex house paints tend to be a combination of binder (sometimes acrylic, vinyl, pva, and others), filler, pigment, and water.  Exterior latex house paints may also be a co-polymer blend, but the best exterior water-based paints are 100% acrylic, due to elasticity and other factors, but vinyl costs half of what 100 percent acrylic resins cost, and PVA (polyvinyl acetate) is even cheaper,” says Wikipedia.

Lead used to be added to paints to assist in the drying process, increase durability, and protect the surface from corrosion.  In 1978 lead was banned from paints used in the United States due to health concerns.  Contractors often still have to deal with lead paint though, often in the process of remodeling structures built prior to the ban.  It is considered a very dangerous material, and special procedures and protective measures have to be taken when handling anything with lead paint on it.


What Makes It Green

Low VOC paints reduce the exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals for those applying the product and those living and working in the space after it is painted.  This makes buildings and their occupants healthier.

These paints also cut down on the “paint smell” that permeates a room or building for several days after painting.  Without these added chemicals, paint products are better for the environment and better for the occupants living in the buildings where they are used.


Green Product Certifications

Indoor Advantage Gold – The SCS Indoor Advantage certification program, developed by Scientific Certification Systems, certifies compliance with rigorous indoor air quality emission requirements. The program is designed for interior building materials, furnishings and finish systems.

GreenGuard Gold – GreenGuard Gold Certification (formerly known as GreenGuard Children & Schools Certification) offers stricter certification criteria, considers safety factors to account for sensitive individuals (such as children and the elderly), and ensures that a product is acceptable for use in environments such as schools and healthcare facilities.


Environmental Product Declaration

EPD for Dulux Trade Vinyl Matt paints

Health Product Declaration for ECOS Interior Matte Wall Paint



Available in all price ranges and paint types Some color tints contain VOCs
Quality is consistent
No “paint smell”
Easy clean up and maintenance


Sources | Images: Wikipedia, Road Test

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