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Volatile Organic Compounds – How Safe is Your Paint?

What are VOC’s?

VOC’s are harmful to everyone, not just children – and they can be extremely damaging to the environment. So, what are these VOC’s? Volatile Organic Compounds are generated from cleaning fluids, paints, building materials, furnishings, carpets and tobacco smoke. It may be hard to believe, but there are up to 300 VOC’s just within our indoor atmosphere. In actual fact, the air we breathe is riddled with air bourne contaminants. Most of us spend a large percentage of time indoors, and any doctor will tell you that good air quality is vital for our health.

VOC’s And Paint

Paint, unfortunately, is one of the top contributors of this kind of indoor air pollution, and it’s prudent to note that some paints can actually give off fumes for up to five years after their application!

In a study in the USA, the EPA found concentrations of VOC’s in indoor air to be 2-5 times greater than in outdoor air. Incredibly, during certain activities, indoor levels of VOC’s may reach 1,000 times that of outdoor air! The EPA also identified VOC’s as carcinogenic, and highlighted the associated health risks which include lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Similarly, an Australian study into the effects on asthmatics of exposure to a conventional water-based paint and a VOC free paint, concluded that Zero VOC paint appeared to be less likely to cause a worsening of respiratory symptoms than conventional acrylic paint, and that some asthmatics would derive a useful symptomatic benefit from using Zero VOC paint. Higher exposure to VOC’s from paint (for example, among artists and professional painters) has been known to lead to permanent respiratory, nervous system, liver or kidney damage.

Of real concern are the short-lived bursts of very high exposure, such as those experienced while painting or using solvents.

Ingredients and Additives in Paint

Many paint companies now designate certain paints as being “low VOC” or “low odour” (which should NOT be confused with non-toxicity!). Although low VOC paints are certainly a lot safer than conventional paints, they still contain harmful chemicals that can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, skin and lungs. And it’s important to note thar “Low Odour” is not the same as “Low VOC” because fumes from VOC can be masked by other chemicals! Even ZERO VOC might not necessarily be non-toxic due to other toxic ingredients being present such as Ammonia, Phthalates, Heavy Metals, Toluene and Glcol Esters! Ammonia can cause respiratory problems and eye irritation. Toluene is a common solvent in paints and it can damage the heart, kidneys & nervous system when inhaled. It’s also known as Methyl Benzene. Phthalates are toxic to the eyes and skin, heavy metals like Cobalt and Cadmium can damage the kidneys an liver, as can Glycol Esters.

When you consider that many paints contain binders, pigments, fillers, extenders, thickeners and additives, it becomes clear just how many potentially damaging elements can be in your paint.

Product Recall

There have been many recent product recalls as a result of high levels of lead and chemical compounds.

VOC Labelling System

Although the impact of interior paints on atmospheric pollution is relatively small, most manufacturers are now of the mind that the amount of VOC’s should be reduced and consumers given the choice of using lower VOC containing products. B&Q notably introduced a labelling system in 1996, which shows the VOC content of each paint product. Minimal -(Zero – 0.29%). Low (0.30 – 7.99%), Medium (8-24.99%), High (25-50%) and Very High (More than 50%). Between 1996 and 2005 the average VOC of paint sold in B&Q has reduced from 191g/l to 97g/l.

Zero VOC, Non-Toxic, Non-Solvent paints are often more expensive than conventional paint, but using products in your home that are safe for your children and kind to the environment is worth the additional cost.

A Breakthrough In Glow In The Dark Technology

Until recently, there was no such thing as a Zero VOC Glow In The Dark Paints. However, July 2008 saw the successful release of a ground-breaking new Glow in the Dark paint. The paint is a world-first in terms of safety and following rigorous testing has been deemed 100% safe for use by both adults and children alike. Taking more than a year to develop the new generation of glow in the dark paints are seen as a major step forward in paint technology.

The launch came just days after the department store Harrods were forced to recall hundreds of souvenir teddy bears after tests found potentially harmful levels of formaldehyde, just one of an increasing number of chemicals and lead compounds being found in products causing them to be removed from the market.

The new generation glow paints are zero VOC’s and has been developed by a leading scientist whose life’s work has focused on Glow in the Dark technology. Now for the first time ever a glow in the dark paint is available that is totally safe and free of any formaldehyde. Important to note is that the new paint is fully compliant to EU toy safety regulations EN71 part 3. The paint is also beneficial to asthmatics and sufferers of allergies.



Source by Alison Coates

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