Last Saturday Stephen Kips of Kapski Painting Inc. gave a presentation on Low to No-VOC's in the home. The location was the John Heinz Cusano Center for the 8th Annual Environmental Summit.
Local news outlets were present and other speakers included PA State Representative Greg Vitale and Dr. Jaie Bosse. Kapskis' focus was on the importance of using No or Low-VOC Paint in the home.
Below is his presentation:
The topic that I would like to discuss with you is VOC’s or Volatile Organic Compounds in Paint. VOC’s are volatile organic compounds. These are petroleum- based chemicals found in some paints.
Because they're volatile, these compounds vaporize and emit gases, even long after they've dried. Paint, for example, emits only half of its VOCs in the first year. VOC stands for volatile organic compound -- any of several chemical additives found in numerous consumer products, from gasoline and glue to correction fluid and colored markers. Even cosmetics, mothballs, air fresheners, scented candles and household cleaning supplies contain VOCs.
Why should I care?
Voc’s are linked to a range of health problems including some very serious diseases. Benzene for example is one of several VOC’S that is known, not just suspected, to cause cancer, beyond any doubt. Other health effects beside cancer include kidney damage, liver damage, damage to the central nervous system (including the brain), as well as more minor complaints such as headaches and eye, throat and nose irritation.
Before NON-VOC paints were available, our painters, even though they used ventilation and respirators experienced some of the minor effects of prolonged exposure while painting inside. I can get all that from a can of paint…really?
We could leave at the end of the day though while the client or office workers had to endure the fumes for the rest of the day, evening and thereafter. We all suspected that these fumes were harmful but we had no real options at the time.
The health effects of VOC’S vary from source to source and from person to person. Some professional painters have been found to have a range of serious health problems, especially liver and kidney damage. People with preexisting conditions, pregnant and nursing women, small children and other sensitive people are at particular risk. Really, you can!
Levels of VOC’s can increase up to 1,000 times after you paint. Paint and paint products are the second largest source of VOC’S after motor vehicles. The VOC’s in paint can seriously affect the indoor air quality of even a well ventilated home or office and they’re a major cause of ‘sick building syndrome’.
Children are more susceptible to pollutants than adults because they are still growing and breathe in proportionately more air. This means indoor pollutants, such as certain chemicals, particles and allergens, can cause more severe health effects in children.
Some facts you should know.
Children are much closer to the ground, and as a result, breathe in more of the heavier airborne chemicals than do adults. Your family pets such as cats, dogs and caged birds are at a much higher risk than humans. Infants and young children breathe through their mouths, more so than do adults, which increases their risk of pulmonary exposure to particulates and fibers, which would otherwise be filtered out in the nose.
Most of our exposure to environmental pollutants occurs by breathing the air indoors. These pollutants come from activities, products and materials we use every day. The air in our homes, schools and offices can be 2 to 5 times more polluted, and in some cases 100 times more polluted, than outdoor air.
Children have a higher heart rate than adults, which allows substances that are absorbed into the blood to permeate tissues faster. Children breathe in a greater volume of air than adults relative to their body size. Children's organs and respiratory, immune and neurological systems are still developing. What are my options?
Follow all the manufacturer's recommendations regarding safe paint use. Paint only in well-ventilated areas, for example, and keep paint and paint products away from children and pets. And look for paints that have no- or low-VOCs. Lots of paint manufacturers are now claiming to have eco-friendly paint. Be sure these claims aren’t false and just green-washing.
The paint marketplace has undergone a major transformation over the last two decades as consumer demand, government regulation and environmental pressures have driven the industry towards more eco-friendly, less hazardous and lower VOC formulations. This current era of “green paint” has also ushered in new types of coatings that are not only decorative, but also functional - for the painting, plumbing and HVAC industries and new, inexpensive ways to address old problems. Insulating paints are one example. How can I be sure?
"The government or third party organization has not yet established the ground rules to craft consistent, protective standard test methods to rate and compare products and materials. This lack of standardization makes it difficult for the consumer to fully understand what the labels and certification mean," this is a current EPA bulletin.
Third party organizations use these resources to qualify your paint.
Go online to…Green SealSee standards GS-11 Paints and Coatings and GS-47. Greenguard meets tough California standard. Section 01350 materials emissions specifications. EPA requirements-For a paint to actually call itself LOW_VOC the EPA requires it to have no more than 250 grams per liter (g/l) of VOC’S for flat and latex paint.
For oil based paint the limit is 380 g/l.Some states, California, for example, have even stricter standards…5 g/l.
My choices-Now that I have found the paint color and sheen that I want and I have read the label on the can and found that the VOC’S are at an acceptable level, what do I do now?
Just because the VOC levels are low it doesn’t mean that you should get right to work. Be sure the spaces are well ventilated. Use a fan and change the air in the workspace as much as possible, crack open a window and if you have a screen door or attic fan, use it.
Protect yourself and your family and pets as much as possible. Don’t take any unnecessary chances. Although the biggest human benefit is found by using them indoors using them outdoors is also a wise choice. You are still being exposed both as an applicator and a consumer perhaps at a lower rate but ultimately the overall environmental benefit is in using No-VOC paints.
Is Eco-Friendly paint worth the extra money? Many of these paints are high quality, do an excellent job of coverage and aren’t too much more expensive than regular high VOC paints. Remember, you’re only buying paint once every few years, so an extra $5 per gallon isn’t too much for a little peace of mind.
Today, in 2013 there are Low VOC and Zero VOC Paints available from every major Paint manufacturer. As soon as this new paint became available we decided to implement it. Now it is almost all we use.
So, unless the client has a project that requires a paint that isn’t VOC compliant we stress the importance and value of Zero VOC Paints. There is an additional expense for this new paint over the older latex and acrylic paints. Zero VOC paint is available in all colors and sheens and available through most major manufacturers. Early on there were problems with poor hiding but these issues have been resolved.
Summary-Use NO-VOC paints inside and out. The extra cost is insignificant. If your painter wants to use VOC paints just don’t let him. Inspect the cans. The label should read Zero VOC’S or at most 5g/l. If you have been using high quality VOC paints in the past you should not notice any difference with the application of No-VOC paints in the way they spread, level off, dry time and overall performance.
You will notice a big difference with lack of odor and how you feel when working with it, but especially how you and your family and pets feel the next day and thereafter.