Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The VOC Question

My husband and I are purchasing our very first house. I wish I could include a triumphant trumpet sound to that sentence. Go back and reread that with the trumpet in your mind. We are SO excited!

We are lucky, the house we are purchasing is in excellent condition, and so we'll be making it our own with little changes, like repainting rooms here and there. No large renovations needed.

Our first order of business has been to repaint the front room where Joe's piano will reside. I had never thought of this as a potentially harmful venture in our day since lead paint was outlawed in the 70's. But did you know that most paints still contain potentially harmful ingredients known as VOC's (volitile organic compounds)?

I had never heard of VOC until my good friend, Mia, told me about them when she repainted her house. VOC's are solvents that are in many many household items you and I use on a daily basis. Anything that gives off a strong odor is a likely culprit, such as strong cleansers, plastics, vinyls, even furnishings in your home such as certain types of carpet. VOC's are both found in nature, and are man made, and are linked to a host of health issues ranging from minor to severe headaches, eye, nose and respiratory problems, even liver issues, and cancer, (the man made VOC being the more toxic of the two).

Those are the health issues. There is also the issue of what chemicals we are releasing into the world around us. Even if these didn't cause my family health issues, what are my projects doing to our environment? Just a thought.

My specific point today is to let you know there are low-VOC and non-VOC paints being manufactured now!! In Utah the only brands I have been able to find are Olympic and Behr -- with these brands, as with a few, you will find the base white paint is VOC free, but adding tint will ad unspecified amounts of the compounds into the paint. Also, according to this consumer report, some low-VOC paints leach less of the compounds into the air than the tinted non-VOC brands. Having used the Olympic brand, I will tell you I was impressed with how little odor there was when we painted. Also that brand seems to have excellent durability. Again, because we used tinted paint, I have no idea how much VOC my paint ended up containing.

In the past VOC-free paints were considered poor quality, but most brands are receiving rave reviews today. And they come in a great variety of colors! True non-VOC paints, all tints included, included such brands as Freshaire Choice, and Mythic. Low-VOC brands include Benjamin Moore Aura, Behr, Olympic, and Glidden. Sherwin-Williams also advertises to sell other brands but I'm out of studying time at present. :)

Hope this information was helpful! And thanks to Mia for letting me know about it.


  1. Thanks Mia and Melissa! We're about to repaint the little bunk beds and crib, so this is incredibly timely.