How To Pick Paint Safe For Families. Shopping for paint can be confusing and over-whelming. There are endless brands to consider. Also, it’s not only about finding the perfect color for your design project. But it’s about educating yourself about healthier & safer paint options. Many are not aware that paints can be highly dangerous and unhealthy. We all love a beautifully decorated space, but clearly not at the cost of getting sick or harming the planet, animals and humans right? So, here’s everything you wanted to know about healthy & humane paints in “laywoman’s” terms. 🧚♀️
Pigments and Colors
Pigments give paint its color and opacity (its ability to cover the wall and hide blemishes). One pigment to watch out for is Titanium Dioxide. This chemical can be found in traditional as well as eco-friendly paints. What is it and why is it used? Titanium Dioxide is used in paint to give it a good opacity. However, the World Health Organization suggests titanium dioxide may have carcinogenic properties. Therefore,we prefer not recommending it until we know for sure.
This helps the paint adhere to a surface. There a number of different types of binders. The most common binders are latex (not used in the UK or EU) and beech cellulose (100% plant based).
Solvents help with the dispersion of the above two ingredients within the paint.
Traditional paints (polyacrylic paint) may include substances such as formaldehyde, heavy metals and plastics. What are these? Simply put, these substances are chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Producing 1 litre of paint can result in up to 30 litres of toxic waste”.
Each layer of polyacrylic paint applied to a surface creates a thin plastic membrane. This membrane has an effect on your home. Considering a room may require 2-3 layers of paint, this will not enable the walls to breath. Over time, this type of paint will trap moisture behind it. Ultimately, dampness and mould could appear on your walls.
Indoor Air Quality
What effect can traditional paints have on the internal air quality of your home? Air pollution! We all know that polluted air is not good for us. Traditional paints can decrease the air quality within our homes and work spaces. The British Lung Foundation writes, “the internal air quality of a building has been associated with health issues ranging from asthma, COPD to lung cancer.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes the effects of VOCS are about 2-5 times higher indoors than outdoors. VOC gases released by traditional paints can be higher than that of eco-friendly paints. It is suggested that certain VOCs emitted into the air of children’s bedrooms can increase the likelihood of illnesses such as asthma, eczema and rhinitis. It is not just the toxic gases emitted from the paint after it has been applied to the walls, but the fumes it releases during and after your painting. These fumes can cause headaches, irritation of the eyes, nausea and severe respiratory illnesses.
So why is this paint used if it is associated with these kinds of health risks? Traditional paints are cheaper, considered by some to be more cost-effective and time-saving to apply.
Eco-Friendly & Humane paints
Consumers thankfully, want to protect the environment and use products which are healthy and animal friendly. So, what makes a paint eco-friendly and humane? It is defined as a product that has no detrimental effect on the environment or society.
Plant-based paints have a lower concentration of VOCs, which break down quicker compared to traditional paints. While a paint may be sustainable it may not be suitable for vegans. Some paint manufacturers include animal products in eco-friendly paints. Ingredients can include casein which is a milk product and shellac, a resin from the female Lac bug or Beeswax.
Natural & Mineral Paints
Natural and mineral paints are microporous, allowing breathable surfaces. The paints are made from either plant-based products (linseed oil) or minerals (chalk). These paints can be wiped. Application of the paint is easy and a surface should only need 2 coats.
Pure and Originals lime paint is a 100% mineral paint, which allows your walls to breath. Lime painted walls have a rather unique aged appearance. Application of the paint should comprise using a lime paint brush (a paint brush, which consists of extra-long fibres). A primer should be applied to your walls prior to the paint being applied. This will help with its adhesion.
Then what kind of things do we need to be looking at when selecting an eco-friendly and humane Paint?
- The carbon footprint of the paint, also referred to as cradle-to-grave impact?. What does that mean? How the item is made, transported from raw material to finished product and how the product is disposed of.
- The ingredients of the paint. This should be displayed on the tin. By law, paint manufacturers only have to disclose substances over a certain quantity on the tin. So, you can contact the supplier directly, requesting a complete break-down of the paint’s ingredients.
- Whether it has been tested on animals. This information may take some digging. But it can either be found on the supplier’s website or by contacting them directly.
Be aware of any paint supplier advertising its product as VOC free. No paint is completely VOC free. But a paint can be low VOC. Eco-friendly paints in the past didn’t provide an array of colors similar to traditional paints in the past. However, there is an increasing number of companies now providing eco-friendly and humane paints. They can be a bit more expensive. But the health and environmental benefits far out-way the costs.
Choosing the right paint, its color, environmental impact, and influence on health, may feel like that research project you participated in at college or university. What can sometimes feel unnecessarily complicated, can be made simpler by considering the above points. Promote a healthy and happy home for you and your family by choosing the right paint.& listen to Deborah’s interview with Tomas about safe & healthy paints.
Thanks for writing this fabulous article, Rachel! Rachel Fowlers is a self driven, passionate creator of sustainable and vegan design. www.rachelfowlerinteriors.com
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DiMare Design is the only 100% vegan interior designer in the USA focused on healthy, non toxic design.
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