VOC Paint: Weighing the Risks and Advantages

Painting with low VOC paint has both advantages and disadvantages.

Painting with low VOC paint has both advantages and disadvantages.

If you are getting ready for your next DIY project, chances are there will be painting involved. VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, can be found in many paints and these chemicals can trigger both short- and long-term health problems. The VOC concentration level is worse in an indoor space as opposed to outdoors so proper ventilation is a consideration.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created an Integrated Risk Information System that reports harmful substances, such as VOCs, and the potential health effects. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of using low VOCs can help you decide what product to choose.

How VOCs Are Determined

There are several ways that VOCs are determined or measured and regulated. Depending on the brand of paint or solvent, different measurements are involved. The EPA uses a process called Test Method 24, which it uses to detect VOC contents in products. Many products claim to have zero VOC, but there is almost always a glitch in accuracy in which trace amounts are left behind. As a rule of thumb, any waterborne paint with a reading at or under 150 grams is considered to have a low VOC. The advantage to choosing a low VOC paint is that it is less likely to cause long-term damage to your eyes and lungs.

SkilToolsWorking With VOC Paint

While even high VOC paint is considered safe for most people, there are still additional safety measures you need to follow when using the paint.

  • Keep the room ventilated: Keeping the room ventilated while you are painting will allow the fumes from the paint to disperse properly. If you are in a small space with no ventilation, place a box fan at the doorway directing the air outside of the room.
  • Seal unused paint tightly: When you are not using paint, you should cover it tightly to contain any fumes being released.
  • Wear a respirator mask: Wearing a respirator mask while painting will allow you to work safely while you complete your project.

Using these tips and low VOC paint can help you enjoy your home improvements for a long time to come. 


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