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Is Your Paint Making You Sick?

Is Your Paint Making You Sick?

I’ve had to tell our Facilities Department not to paint inside our buildings during work hours. Every time this has happened, one or more employees in the area leave work immediately because of the smell and how it makes them feel. Paints can contain some fairly toxic and irritating chemicals.

The most common problem with paints is volatile organic compounds (or VOCs). As paint is applied to a surface and begins to dry, the VOCs in the paint are escaping into the air and may continue to off-gas at low levels for years after application.

People working or living in a freshly painted area may breathe in these VOCs which can cause a variety of health problems like headaches, dizziness and other acute symptoms. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some VOCs used in paints are known human carcinogens and VOCs emissions can also contribute to ozone depletion.

Because of the problems with VOCs, low-VOC paints are becoming more and more popular. As the name implies, these paints contain fewer volatile organic compounds and must meet the definition of low-VOC paints established by the federal government. Most major paint manufacturers offer low-VOC paints, and these are much healthier than standard paint.

Low VOC paints however can still off-gas VOCs and generate an odor. Paint manufacturers are now beginning to offer zero-VOC paints. These are even healthier for you than the low-VOC paints, and they are also advertised as being completely odorless. There are catches, of course. No VOC paints are more expensive, harder to find, available in a limited number of colors and may not work as well as other paints. Plus, when pigment is added at the store, the VOC levels can climb back up (although one brand, Freshaire Choice, claims the pigments used for their product are also VOC-free).

Zero-VOC paints may cost more and your selection may be limited, but they are healthier for you and the environment.

Read more: Blogs, Green Home Decor, Health & Safety, Safe Sweet Home

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Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson is a Certified Industrial Hygienist with over 10 years of experience working in the environmental and occupational health field. In addition to writing, he is currently the Environment, Health and Safety Manager for a medium-sized company that has been voted one of Fortune Magazine’s Best Places to Work For and one of CRO Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens. He lives in California with his wife and adopted pound puppy.


+ add your own
4:08AM PDT on Jul 7, 2015

thanks for the information.

4:03PM PDT on Mar 27, 2013


12:30PM PST on Nov 20, 2011


12:58PM PDT on Sep 9, 2011

Thank you

10:39AM PDT on Jun 26, 2011

So glad to see this happening!

6:57AM PDT on Jun 10, 2011

Techcrunch's reporting implies konteyner that all business process patents are now likely
to be invalid which is clearly not the case. If your read the article,
it states that protecting broad concepts is not likely to be patentable.
Yet specific kabin processses that are innovative, buildable and provable
technically will still prefabrik villa be upheld. Be a little bit more
careful with film indir your reporting.

3:25PM PST on Feb 20, 2011

There are several companies that now make complete no VOC paint using no VOC tints as well but it is correct that this still does not mean it is the healthiest paint. Many solvents like ammonia or formaldahyde do not count towards VOC's but still affect indoor air quality. Some of these complete no VOC paints still have a warning on the back telling you to use adequate ventilation and a respirator if you are spraying so that should tell you something about what is in the product.

A paint that has no such warnings and touts no carcinogens as well is Mythic Paint. You can check them out at

9:00AM PST on Mar 7, 2010

excelent info!

6:18PM PST on Jan 13, 2010

Interesting article; thank you, Andrew.

7:45AM PST on Dec 13, 2009


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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