Choosing Low- or No-VOC Paints

Innovations provide environmentally beneficial and cost-effective alternatives.


Paintbrush dipped in green paint resting on tin of paint

Photo by: Stockbyte


Though conventional paints have gotten less toxic over the years, many still release some level of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, into the air in the form of a breathable gas.

According to the American Lung Association, VOCs can cause a number of physical problems, such as eye and skin irritation, as well as lung and kidney damage. Innovations in the green building movement and paint technology have been instrumental in providing builders with a healthier and more environmentally safe painting alternative. The best practice is to use paint that is low in, or does not contain, VOCs.

These "green" paints have many benefits:

  • They can be applied exactly the same way as conventional paints.
  • They are virtually odor-free.
  • They release no significant pollutants, making them excellent for use in buildings which require low levels of toxicity, such as hospitals, schools or the homes and workplaces of people who are chemically sensitive.
  • If low- or no-VOC paint spills, it can be cleaned up with soap and water.
  • Since VOC emissions may contribute to higher ozone levels, these paints may actually improve the overall air quality.
  • They generally still cost the same as conventional paint.
  • They are easy to find. Most can be purchased in a variety of colors from your local specialty paint or hardware stores.

Conventional oil-based paints are the most toxic and have become limited in use; and although common latex paints are safer and more commonly used, they can also still contain high levels of VOCs, depending on the brand. In comparison, low- or no-VOC paint is a quality, cost-effective painting option that is safe for the environment and the homeowner.

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