Paints are manufactured from three main components:
Pigment - provides the colour
Binder - holds the paint together
Carrier - disperses the binder
Many modern paints use toxic chemical ingredients that are harmful
to both the environment and human health. This includes:
Toxic Pigments - Cadmium, lead and chromium
Toxic Binders and Carriers - petrochemicals, solvents, benzene,
formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Toxic chemicals are also used in modern paints as preservatives,
stabilisers, thickeners and driers.
Environmental Impact - VOCs are organic [carbon
based] chemical compounds that evaporate easily in the atmosphere.
They are recognised as major contributors to the breaking down of
the ozone layer, and to global climate change.
Health Impact - many paint chemicals are highly
toxic and linked with respiratory disease, asthma, dizziness, headaches,
nausea, fatigue, skin disorders, eye irritation, liver and kidney
damage and even cancer.
Modern chemical paints continue to emit VOCs many 3-5 years after
Increasing concerns about the impact of chemical paints on health
and the environment have led to environmental regulations to force
paint companies to significantly reduce their VOC content. Consequently,
most large paint companies offer alternative non-toxic paints.
NOTE: many of these still contain VOC solvents, chemical pigments
Video - Eco Friendly Paints
"Building Green," host Kevin Contreras explores the basics
of environmentally-friendly paints and notable green brands.
Toxic fumes can infiltrate your home for up to three years after
being applied. Formaldehyde, acetone, ammonia are all emited to
cause toxic reactions in many inhabits.
Low VOC paints are getting established, such as Horizon Paints
Most homes take 20-30 gallons to paint, and paying just $5 more
can amount to only a few hundred dollars to ensure your home is
toxic free as possible.
Eco Paint Labels
As yet, there is no standard for paint labels. As a result, non-toxic
paints are often labelled:
Low-VOC, No-VOC, VOC-Free
Green, natural or organic
These terms are often grossly misused for marketing purposes.
To help avoid this, environmental bodies in many countries have
developed eco-labels to indicate that the paint has fulfilled certain
environmental requirements.. These eco-labels [logos on paint cans]
Eco-Label - Europe
Blue Angel - Germany
Green Seal and Greenguard
VOC - UK [ indicate the content of VOCs using
one of five classifications: Minimal (0-0.29%), Low, Medium, High
and Very High (VOC content greater than 50%)].
Low-VOC paints generally use water as a carrier instead of petrochemical
solvents, significantly reducing their emissions. No-VOC or VOC-Free
paints may still contain very low levels of VOCs in their pigments
Many conventional paints now also have low VOC levels. There is
debate as to whether low-VOC paints should be considered non-toxic.
Natural paints contain no VOCs, making then non-toxic. They are
made from natural ingredients such as water, vegetable oils, plant
dyes, and natural minerals.
Natural Color Pigments - natural mineral and earth pigments
Other natural ingredients used include:
Lime and milk paints - give an authentic aged look
Chalk - used as an extender to thicken paint
Turpentine - distilled from pine trees is used as a solvent
Essential oils - from citrus fruits (d-limonene) are used as
a solvent and fragrance
Benefits of Natural Paints
The main benefits of natural paints are:
Non-toxic - no hazardous fumes or harmful effects on health. This
is significant for allergy sufferers and chemically sensitive people
who are unable to tolerate chemical paints.
Environmentally Friendly - use renewable resources; are biodegradable,
can even be composted.
Micro-Porous - allow walls and surfaces to breathe, preventing
condensation and damp problems, and reducing associated indoor allergens.
They are also less prone to paint flaking, peeling and blistering.
Natural paints have a few downsides, including:
Higher Cost - are generally more expensive due to the scale
Take longer to dry - up to 24 hours or more
Limited Color Range - natural mineral pigments produce paints
that come in pastel shades only, and this has led some natural
paint companies to use synthetic pigments to create a more extensive
range of colours.
Natural paint manufacturers ensure their materials are from sustainable
sources and that the paints are manufactured in an environmentally
friendly way. They aim to:
Minimise pollution, energy and waste throughout the life cycle
of their products
Use recyclable packaging
Declare their product ingredients
Natural paints are non-toxic, they are completely safe and this
makes them the obvious choice for any consumer concerned with protecting
the earth and its people for future generations.