The use of paint in our homes has two significant environmental and health-related impacts: it releases Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which can affect human health, and it must be discarded in an environmentally responsible way. By following the following tips, you can reduce the negative effects paints have on your health and the environment.
✔ Buy Low- or No-VOC latex paint – Buying low- or no-VOC paint may cost more than conventional paint but it will release fewer or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids including paints. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors.
As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effects from VOCs depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people experience.
✔ Buy the right paint for the job – The two most common types of house paints are oil-based and water-based (latex). Oil-based paints were once very popular, but in recent years latex paints have come to dominate the market.
Given their high levels of VOCs, oil-based paints should only be used in a few situations: when repainting exterior surfaces with heavy “chalking” (chalk is the powdery substance that comes off on your hand when you run it across the surface); and when repainting any exterior or interior surface that has four or more layers of old oil-based paint (the number of layers can often be determined by removing some paint chips and examining them). In the second circumstance, especially if the area is indoors, you may want to consider stripping all the paint and begin with a clean surface.