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What is Low VOC Paint

Painting your nursery

Paint Choices

An important bit of information about the paint that you purchase for use in your home should be how much volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, it emits. The VOC is a standard measure of how much hazardous material is released from a paint, stain, or varnish dries. Low VOC paint reduces or can even eliminate this issue altogether to leave the air in your home safe and healthy to breathe.

Water-Based Paint

When a paint, varnish, or stain uses a water as a carrier instead of petroleum it is considered to have low VOC. Harmful emissions are very low when compared to solvent-based paints that have a much higher VOC. Typically, this type of paint also contains little or no heavy metals or formaldyde.

How a Product Releases VOCs

Because of the way that air does not circulate as well as it does outside, VOC levels average ten times higher than those recorded outside. The highest level of VOC in the air appears immediately after painting, as it dries. They will continue to be released for years to come though. In fact, only half of the paints VOC will be released in the first year.

Health Effects

There are a variety of health effects that occur when someone is exposed to VOCs.  These include headaches, watery eyes, nausea, and breathing problems. Throat, eye, and nose irritation, the loss of coordination, liver damage, kidney damage, and even central nervous system damage can all be signs or symptoms. There have even been cases of cancer that have been directly linked to VOCs.


The Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA, handles regulating VOCs. They are measured in grams per liter, or g/l. A paint container’s label must show the VOC level. They have created three categories for non-toxic paint to fall into. These categories are low VOC paint, zero VOC paint, and natural paint

Regulations by the EPA

Paints and stains are not to exceed a VOC rating of greater than 200 g/l. Varnishes, on the other hand, can go up to 300 g/l. All paint manufacturers must adhere to these standards that the EPA has set. Low VOC paint will rarely exceed a VOC rating of 50 g/l. Even though these low VOC emissions are not classified as being dangerous, these products still release an odor as they dry that can be harmful to those sensitive to emissions.

VOC Emissions Sensitivity

If you are one of those individuals that are sensitive to VOC emissions, ensure that the chemicals that you are working with have a VOC level of less than 25 g/l. It is important to point out the paint’s VOC level gets taken prior to any additives or pigments being added. These can contribute to the problem and create an even higher VOC rating than what is shown on the label.

Other Releasers of VOCs

Other products that release VOCs are wax, cleaning products, disinfecting products, cosmetic products, degreasing products, hobby products, paint strippers, wood preservatives, moth repellents, air fresheners, fuels, automotive products, dry cleaned clothing, and even some hobby supplies.

If aSummit, NJ area homeowner undertakes an exterior or interior painting project, it is a wise choice and a safe approach to use low VOC paints. Natural paints are an even better choice which is completely environmentally friendly and safe. Low VOC paints are a modern, safe approach to house painting and are a wise choice for any painting project homeowners wish to undertake. While low VOC paint is not quite as environmentally friendly and safe as natural paint, it is a close second.

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