Guide to pollution free paint

No doubt a fresh coat of paint brightens up a space but that clean smell of new paint is actually are the vapours released from the toxic ingredients of the conventional paints… known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Around 30 ingredients are combined to make the paint and each of these ingredients needs to exist for a consistent and stable mixture. A study has found that the application and drying of paint releases VOCs at a higher rate than any other product used indoors.

The extent to which VOCs can cause health problems actually depends on the toxic contents of the paint, its concentration and the duration of exposure.

The Australian paint sector comprises around 30 paint manufacturing companies representing its $2 Billion paint industry… most of it is represented by conventional paints.

The good news is that industry is waking up to the harmful effects of paints on the health now. Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) is a third party certification system that reviews various products for their environmental impact.

A product is listed on the GECA database only after it has undergone a rigorous process of independent testing and assessment. Currently there are at least eight paint products listed on its website.

The GECA assessment process also assesses paint on other health impacts like the level of carcinogenic substances in the paint and a range of environmental issues like heavy metal content or the presence of ozone-depleting substances, also whether the packaging of paint could be recycled. The GECA label on a product is a good indicator of reduced environmental and human health impact.

VOCs in paint are measured in grams per litre. A standard off the shelf interior paint has a high level of VOC which is around 30-80 grams per litre for water-based paint and around 350-450 grams per litre for enamel oil-based paint. The Australian Paint Approval Scheme (APAS) considers a “low odour” and “low environmental impact” to be one that has a VOC level of 5g/L in untinted wet paint. As per Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), a low VOC wall paint has a VOC level of 16 grams per litre or less including tints. The VOC levels depend on the type of tint… darker tints have higher VOCs than lighter tints.