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Are VOCs in paint dangerous?

May 17, 2020

Are VOCs in paint dangerous?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are all around us, in the items and products we use every day and many directly impact our health & wellbeing in the home.

Volatile organic compounds are characterized by their ability to evaporate at room temperature and “off-gas”. Paint manufacturers use solvents containing VOCs as drying agents. As the paint dries solvents evaporate and off-gas which may negatively affect your health and wellbeing.

Are VOCs risky in your own home?

In most homes, paint is used on every wall. If the paint used contains VOCs, the risk factor is present in every corner of the house. VOCs in paint are particularly dangerous because of the enclosed nature of today’s homes and the emission of these harmful compounds can pollute the air. In such cases, merely breathing could put you at risk.

What makes it even more dangerous is the fact that the risk does not disappear when the paint dries. Depending on humidity levels, temperature, and time of year (summer vs. winter) VOCs in paint may continue emitting for a period of time after application.

In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has affirmed that exposure to VOCs in paint could result in the following health dangers;

  • Headaches
  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Organ damage
  • Allergic skin reactions
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Visual disorders
  • Impaired memory
  • Some compounds are suspected or known to cause cancer

Have you observed that your baby’s sneezing spell or your nagging headache seems to clear the moment you step outside the house? The problem could be the paint  on your walls.

Does the emission ever stop?

Eventually, yes. But how long depends on the pait used. It could take any number of years to completely dissipate. Research shows that although 50% of VOC in paint is emitted in the first year, it could take 3 to 5 years to emit the remaining 50%.

Interestingly, you may not have exhausted the VOCs from the paint you applied three years ago. Reapplying the paint could be equal to renewing the risk. Leaving your house for a few days while your paint dries may not solve the problem.

Are there any VOCs alternatives?

Thankfully, you do not have to choose between a beautiful house and a healthy body. You can have both. With the increased attention on environmental health and customer protection, many states now have regulations regarding VOCs content in building materials including paint. Even better, low-VOC and zero-VOC paint options are available at most retailers. 

In Conclusion: Make Safe Home Choices

It is important you research and understand the options regarding the products you use in your home, especially when they may affect your living space and your health. Making informed choices begins with engaging health-conscious builders who place a premium on building your home using healthy materials and practices.

As an inspired healthy home advocate, Empire Custom Homes is committed to creating healthier living environments for our employees and clients through a company-wide commitment to the RESIDE Healthy Standard, AVANT Cabinets (NRC tested low-VOC cabinetry), our new healthy home collection in Currie at Valour Park, and on-going research to help reduce the impact of VOCs and related construction materials and practices on our built environment.