Guide to pollution free paint

No doubt a fresh coat of paint brightens up space. But did you know the clean smell of paint is actually vapours released from the toxic ingredients of the conventional paints?

The vapours released are known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

Each of these ingredients needs to exist for a consistent and stable mixture. Certainly, the paint application and drying release VOCs at a higher rate than any other product used indoors.

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

Presently, the Australian paint sector comprises around 30 paint manufacturing companies representing its $2 Billion paint industry.

The good news is that the 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.

GECA database lists all harmful paint products. Those products undergo a rigorous process of independent testing and assessment.

The GECA  assesses paint on these factors:
  • Probably, health impacts like the level of carcinogenic substances in the paint
  • a range of environmental issues like the heavy metal content or the presence of ozone-depleting substances
  • Recyclable packaging

Probably, the GECA label on a product is a good indicator of reduced environmental and human health impact.

Grams per litre is the unit measure of VOCs.  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 on untinted wet paint.

As per 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. Also, darker tints have higher VOCs than lighter tints.