Low VOC paints don't require compromise for beauty or durability

| by Gary Wollenhaupt
Low VOC paints don't require compromise for beauty or durability

When low-VOC paints were introduced in the early 1990s, homeowners and building professionals may have noticed some compromises for durability, as well as price. But that's no longer the case.

"When the industry introduced low or zero-VOC paints, they could be priced somewhat higher and more importantly, there could be a sacrifice in performance," said Karl Schmitt, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Sherwin Williams. "The industry has made many improvements in technology so that the low-VOC products perform extremely well and in many cases better than their solvent-borne counterparts."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.

Read about Low-VOC Paints in the Proud Green Home at Serenbe.

VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings. Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products.

All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

Industry paradigm shift

Low-VOC paints are also often low-odor, which took some getting used to for painting pros in the early days.

"On the professional contractor side, there was the impression that if the paint didn't smell bad it didn't work well," said Laurie Forbush, brand manager for PPG/Glidden Professional. "The reality is today, that the products with low-VOCs are as equally as good in performance and often better."

Low odor is often important for repainting projects in a home where young children or people with respiratory issues may live or in schools and daycares.

"The homeowner can expect a low- or no-odor situation that lets them get back in to the room more quickly, and that's especially true if you're in any kind of environment where children are involved," Forbush said.

Ongoing development

Another advancement in technology is the development of low- or zero-VOC tints or colorants. Many manufacturers offered base paints with low VOC levels, but adding tints could significantly increase the level of VOCs that were emitted when the mixed paint was applied to the walls.

Now many companies such as Sherwin Williams and PPG offer tints that do not add VOCs to the paint base.

Today more low-VOC paint products are available than ever. And that process will continue. Schmitt said the VOC content is one of the factors that paint makers consider when developing new products, along with things like coverage and durability.

"We want performance first, whether it's durability on the exteriors or washability on the interiors," Schmitt said. "We want to continue to provide the performance that's most important to the customer and at the same time as we are having less impact on the environment."

Read more about Low-VOC Paints.

Topics: Indoor Air Quality, Interior Design, Paint | Low VOC and No VOC

Companies: Sherwin-Williams, PPG Pittsburgh Paints

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.

wwwView Gary Wollenhaupt's profile on LinkedIn

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