Paint… What to know: part II

So the biggest conversation concerning paint today is about VOC’s or Volatile Organic Compounds which are compounds that are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids.   They occur as a wide variety of chemicals and most have short or long term ‘adverse health effects’.  They are typically 2 to 5 times more abundant inside your home vs. outside and they can be found a thousands of everyday items.  According to the  EPA exposure to VOC’s can cause ‘eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.  Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness.’

But not all VOC are created equal.  You see, VOC regulations for paints, stains, adhesives, caulks, sealants and others, primarily come from the SCAQMD or the South Coast Air Quality Management District.  They have set the limits for the amount of VOC’s various products can have.  For instance, Flat paint is limited to 50 g/L of VOC’s to be considered a low-VOC product.  Now, the important thing to keep in mind, is where these standards came from.  SCAQMD set these standards over 30 years ago because, as you may recall, California had huge smog issues.  In their research to find the source of these pollutants, it was determined that household products contribute over 40% to the level of smog through the release of VOC’s.  This is because VOC’s when released, react with Nitrogen and Sunlight to create low-level ozone (another toxic substance for humans) and low-level ozone is a primary cause of, you guessed it, SMOG.

So, the chemical manufacturers association got together when they were putting these regulations together and convinced SCAQMD that while VOC’s are contributing to Smog, they shouldn’t regulate those VOC’s that don’t.  That is, there are VOC’s that don’t react with Nitrogen and Oxygen and therefore don’t contribute to smog formation.  These VOC’s are called Exempt Solvents and they are exempt from regulations and exempt from disclosure as well.  So this is the first lesson, VOC’s weren’t regulated because of human health concerns from the VOC’s but from the Smog that they contribute to.

These exempt solvents include chemicals such as Acetone, Methylene Chloride and other wonderful chemicals… which are carcinogenic.  They are toxic to humans and are not regulated or required to be disclosed all because they don’t react to produce smog.  Interesting Huh…

And, if that doesn’t perk your interests, the CMA (Chemical Manufacturer’s Association) even publishes white papers to their manufacturers on how to get around the VOC regulations by using the Exempt Solvents… you can read for yourself here.  And you can even note the ‘printed with solvent based ink’ at the bottom of the document just to get a taste of their humor.

Next we will turn to VOC’s in bases, pigments and what you need to know.


Paint… What to know: part I

There are a ton of paints on the market today and more often then not, we purchase paint with little understanding of how paint works or what is in paint that we should be concerned with.  In addition, there are numerous tricks that paint manufacturers play that you should be aware of and know how to either recognize or ask questions about.

Most paint that you purchase at stores today is referred to as ‘latex’ paint. I put that in quotes because it really doesn’t have any latex and is commonly based in either water or another solvent.  In addition to the solvents, there are pigments, resins and additives that round off paints ingredients.  Solvents allow the paint ingredients to be mixed together.  Like oil and water, they don’t mix unless you have a solvent that can break them down first.  The Resin is the ‘solid’ content of the paint… this is what is left on the wall after all of the solvents have evaporated.  The pigments are just that, pigments that tint the paint to the desired color… usually some combination of 12 colorants.  Additives are the ‘extras’ that are added to paint in order to keep it mildew resistant, allow it to level or smooth out on the wall, make it not smell (we’ll talk about this), allow it to stick to the wall, etc…  I call the additives, the dummy factor.

So, now we have all the ingredients out there.  We can look at the base paint itself.  Base is the white (off-white) paint that is in the can, prior to tinting.  There are several names but typically the bases are called, Pastel (for light colors), Medium (for, you guessed it, medium colors), Deep (for, there is a theme here, deeper colors) and Accent (for intense or rich colors, think bright orange).  There are some variations in the names and some manufacturers call them Bases A, B, C, and D but for purposes of reference, we will use those mentioned here.

So, now lets dig a little deeper… We’ll do that in part II.

Insights into a deeper world

This site was started based on general inquiries from friends and colleagues encouraging me to share the information that i know and learn about the realities of ‘green’.  The world of green is fraught with unknowns and to really understand it, you need to dig a little deeper.  Many people don’t have the time to do this for themselves, so hopefully i can answer some questions and help you learn about a deeper shade of green.  I will take you down the rabbit hole on a wide array of topics.  No agenda, just sharing things about green living, green products, green building, green business, and our global systems that get in the way of a truly sustainable world.  It will include book reviews as well as i am constantly seeking new information and hopefully it will encourage you to do the same.  Thanks for stopping by… for more about me, see the about page or check me out on LinkedIn.