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What is “No VOC” paint?

June 6, 2020

What is “No VOC” paint?

The increased attention on environmental hazards and the possible harmful effects of household items (like wall paint) may have you worried, and with good reason too. It’s uncomfortable knowing  that the walls in your house could be putting you at risk for exposure to harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs.) Are there No VOC paints? Can the walls in your home be beautiful without being toxic? Thankfully, yes they can.

Typically, what makes paint dangerous is the presence of VOCs. These compounds can have far-reaching effects on human health. Manufacturers of low and no-VOC paints have been able to produce paints that does not include solvents or other components that contain VOCs.

Pros of No VOC paint?

  • Reduced Smell – You know that strong ‘fresh paint smell’ when you have just applied a coat of wall paint? It’s a tell-tale sign of the presence of VOCs and one of the first things you’ll notice that’s not be present with low or no-VOCs paints Low VOC paint is more likely to have a mild non-obtrusive smell.
  • Breathe Easier – no VOC paint likely won’t make your eyes water or your throat itch. You are likely to have no irritation at all because the air in your home can remain clear and safe for breathing, even though your walls are shining with new paint.
  • It’s available: No, you won’t need a special search party. Low – VOC paint is readily available at most paint suppliers including big-box stores. And you are not limited to color or sheen (finish). Plus most paint manufacturers offer low-VOC tints which have no impact on the low-VOC paint base.
  • Quality & finish is the same –  This is not one of those situations where you choose health over functionality or aesthetics. Low VOC paint looks just as good and works just as well as other paints with higher VOC content. In some cases, they even dry faster after application.

Cons of No VOC paint?

  • You may need to repaint your walls after a few years as low VOC paint can be less durable than higher-VOC paints due to the removal of VOCs that once improved durability.
  • You may also require a professional painter with the right equipment too. Again, certain VOCs that are present in higher VOC paints that contribute to application ease may not be present in low-VOC paints therefore making application more effort and time consuming. Low-VOC paint may cost a little more, but what’s a little extra cost compared to your long-term health?

Can I be 100% Safe from VOCs?

While No-VOC paint represents a much lower health risk than other paint types, they’re not 100% safe. Current standards require that low-VOC paints meet a less than 5 g/L requirement. 

The safest way to shop for paint is to ask the right questions of your chosen supplier and do a bit of online research. And if you want to take it a step further, source the paint manufacturer’s Safety or Technical Data Sheets (SDS or TDS), or see if you can obtain one from the paint supplier. These two documents will provide the VOC levels and other important health and ingredient information.    

Paint that comes with the 100% natural assurance may be your safest bet but you should still ask for documentation such as the SDS or TDS to be absolutely sure.

The good news is that paint manufacturers are continuously innovating to produce healthier paint options that are durable and beautiful.

Ask the right “VOCs” questions

Whether you are embarking on DIY remodelling or employing the services of a renovator or  home builder, you should ask the right questions. What’s their policy regarding environmental health? What principles do they adhere to? What kind of materials do they intend to use? 

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 our 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 and lived-in environment.

If you would like to learn more about our RESIDE Healthy Standard, AVANT Cabinets, or our Valour Park single family project, please contact us.