Healthy Paints, What You Need to Know!

Color911 Healthy Paint Cans Amy Wax

Painting a room or furniture with a new color is one of the easiest and most effective ways to transform a home. Some of you have expressed concerns about using paint, following reports that the painting process can pose a risk to your health. Here’s my advice on which paints are safest to use. Let me run you through the various issues and options.

 Why does paint smell?  

The strong smell we associate with paint is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOC).  When the paint is wet, the ingredients that make the paint liquid (usually water, oil, or solvent-based, depending on the type of paint) evaporate into the air from the painted surface.


Is paint dangerous / unhealthy?  


In the past, paint has been made from some pretty nasty ingredients; heavy metals, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds are just a few products that have been used to create paint.


VOC gases can be dangerous if inhaled for a long period. If you are a professional painter and decorator, it is worth considering a greener alternative that is safer for you. Again, if you have kids or pets, this is worth some investigation. I know a lot of emphasis is put on younger or older people and making the home healthier for them. I personally feel your home should be healthy for everyone!


What are the side effects?  


If you are exposed to VOCs for an extended amount of time, then you maybe be at risk of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and/or lungs
  • Headaches
  • Skin irritation


If you are in constant exposure to these chemicals (i.e. you work with these substances professionally), you are at higher risk of developing some cancers.


 How can I avoid these dangers? Is there a safer/healthier paint? 


You can use a low-VOC or even a VOC-free paint. This is something you may want to consider for both the people in your home, and your pets as well. I think creating a healthier environment is important for any living breathing being, regardless of who they are.


It is worth doing your research. Even if the paint is labeled as “low” or “zero” VOC, the VOC levels can still vary. VOC’s often come from the pigments that are used in creating paint. That explains why the darker the paint or the higher the level of pigmentation, results in higher levels of VOCs.


Luckily, more and more paint companies are aware of the push for healthier paint products. Competition between the manufacturers have forced paint companies to produce better products as the public is more aware than ever before, of the value of using a healthier paint in their homes.


Things to look out for 


Please note that “low odor” does not mean “low VOC.” The odor of VOCs can be masked by other chemicals. Furthermore, low VOC or VOC-free does not mean that the paint is non-toxic. Not all toxins fall into the VOC category.


Natural paints made from naturally occurring materials like chalk, clay lime, and natural oils are available. Being free of synthetic oil products, they are very low in VOCs. This, however, doesn’t mean that they are 100% safe. It is important to check out individual brands and labels.


The best option is to look for paints certified by independent organizations such as Green Seal who are strict on levels of non-VOC compounds, as well as VOCs.


Make A Stink!


By that I mean ask a lot of questions! Asks the painter, ask the paint store if they are using a low or zero VOC paint. Make sure the paint cans have labels on them so that the painter is using the healthy product you asked for! Buying the healthier paint might mean going out of your way to get the best product, but it is well worth the effort!


Looking for color inspiration?


Before you buy your paints create a palette of colors that you will be working with to design your space. The paint companies can match the colors you create if you are using the Color911 app. Tap on your color swatch three times to create a larger area of color on your iPhone or iPad, and it is big enough for the paint companies to see and match. I have matched colors at Home Depot, Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams stores. Now more than ever before, the paint companies have a tremendous numbers of colors available. Benjamin Moore alone has over 3500 colors!


The beauty of creating a color palette on the Color911 app, is that once you have your colors you can use it as reference for anything from paint to fabric. Take the color palette with you and use it as your guide.


It’s time to get started! Plan your colors, research your paint and it’s time to put that paint up on your walls. We used to always open our windows so that we did not have to breath in the unhealthy paint odor, now it’s simply for faster drying. I hope you are inspired to get painting with your new knowledge or healthy paint products!




About the Author: Amy Wax

Amy Wax, creator of Color 911®, is an artist and experienced color consultant, recognized for her expertise in the world of color and design. Fifteen years ago, Amy created Your Color Source Studios, Inc. a company specializing in the architectural application of color. Amy has received numerous awards for her color expertise.

Learn More About Amy

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