Whether you want to reduce your environmental footprint, or reduce your exposure to chemicals and allergens, try one of the newest lines of "green" paint the next time you want to update your home.
That's right — green paint. "Green paint is very low in VOC or volatile organic compounds. The solvent is released in the drying process of the paint," explains Kurt Cubbison, manager at Miller Paint Company in Medford. It's environmentally friendly, water-based paint made without solvents. Solvents, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, contribute to ground level ozone, cause indoor air pollution and for people with respiratory problems or sensitive eyes, cause nose and throat irritation, dizziness and may even trigger an asthma attack.
The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that conventional paint and varnish removers contain a variety of chemical substances that are hazardous to human health and to the environment. Reduce your risk of exposure to the dangerous and flammable solvents these products contain, by using them only in well-ventilated areas, and with protective clothing and face masks.
As an alternative to conventional strippers, consider environmentally friendly paint removers such as Miller Paints' Back to Nature line or the Timber Pro Strip & Brite products found at Phoenix Organic Garden and Farm Center. These products are biodegradable, non-flammable, odor-free and cleaned with water.
Whatever product you choose, be sure to read the directions carefully before you use it, and clarify anything that isn't crystal clear. You can also ask for the Material Safety Data Sheet, a standard form developed by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration that describes potentially harmful substances found in the workplace.
Public awareness of the dangers of VOCs has resulted in an increasing demand for low-level and zero-level VOC paints. Today, even mainstream companies such as Sherwin-Williams and Miller Paints carry environmentally friendly paint.
"People are sensitive to what we're doing to the environment, people don't like the smell of paint in the house as it dries — there's less odor [in a zero-VOC paint]," Cubbison says. Miller Paint has manufactured zero-VOC paint for eight years and now carries two zero-VOC interior paint lines, Acro Pure and Acro Super Pure, available in flat, satin, semigloss and gloss finishes. Miller Paint's green paints are base white paints that need colorants which can add some minimal VOCs. "Soon even colorants will be zero-VOC," he adds. "That's the trend that started with the green movement."
Phoenix Organic Garden and Farm Center on Highway 99 in Phoenix carries five lines of green paint: AFM Safecoat, American Pride, Aglaia, Olivetti Mineral Lime Paint and even paint made out of milk.
"The paints that we sell, not only are they zero-VOC or low-VOC," says store manager Ajit Singh, they also don't contain any chemical compounds that are known to affect human health; they are totally, totally non-toxic." While warning signs on conventional paint describe the risks of exposure, warning signs on Phoenix Organics' paint cans are slightly different: "They say that you don't want to drink them, that you want to keep them away from children," Singh says with a laugh.
Lime paints, like paint made from milk, is an ancient means of applying surface color. Rich, natural pigments are mixed with lime and water to make calcium carbonate and smoothed on as stucco or plaster. Like a work of timeless art, the lime paint can be finished to satin smoothness, burnished to a bright shine or textured to look like velvet.
While lime paints are colored with a dry pigment, the other envriomentally friendly paint lines carried by Phoenix Organic Garden and Farm Center are tinted more conventionally: "We have a totally non-toxic, low-VOC tinting system," Singh explains. "The tinting system is water-based and we can mix as deep a color as you want up to accent base — very deep color."
Both Cubbison and Singh agree that low-VOC and no-VOC paints are equal to conventional paints in terms of surface preparation, application, coverage, durability, brightness and fading. Singh says some green paints will spray best with a nozzle designed for the paint's specific viscosity.
Non-VOC paints are made in smaller quantities than paints containing VOCs and so you can expect to pay a little more to get your paint earth-friendly. A gallon of green is about $2 more than a comparable premium brand at Miller Paints and perhaps a little more at Phoenix Organic Garden and Farm Center. When you think about it, the difference seems a small price to pay to make the world, and your home a better place to live. "And green paint doesn't stink!" adds Singh.