You may have heard of VOC ratings in the news, in commercials or while shopping at your local home improvement store but have you looked into what it means and how it may affect you? This article is meant to shed some light on VOC ratings, how they affect your life and what actions you should take to protect yourself.
VOC stands for volatile organic compounds and can be any compound that evaporates from any solid or liquid at room tempurature. VOCs are usually recognizable as smells. Many chemical products such as bleach, paint, air fresheners, and gasoline have a high number of VOCs. Some VOCs are not harmful to living things. Other VOCs are harmful, causing short term symptoms like dizziness, headache and nausea. Little is known about the long term effects of these harmful VOCs due to the lack of long term studies on them, however, some VOCs are thought to be carcinogens. Some of these harmful VOCs also have a harmful impact on our environment. In this article we are going to talk about the harmful VOCs in relation to paint.
There are many different kinds of paint, each with their own levels of VOCs. Oil-based paints tend to have more VOC than water-based latex paints. Paints with higher gloss levels have a greater amount of VOCs than flat paints. VOCs are a byproduct of the solvents used in paints. These solvents give paint helpful qualities such as allowing the paint to stay wet longer and lay down flatter which will allow for a smoother paint job. In the past few years most companies have come out with low-VOC or no-VOC paints in a move to provide a healthier and more eco-friendly product. The government has set maximum standards that a product must meet in order to be able to promote it’s products as low-VOC or no-VOC. Low-VOC gloss paints must have less than 380g/L of VOCs and flat paints must have less than 250g/L. No-VOC paints must have less than 5 g/L.
VOCs are increasingly harmful as they build up in confined spaces where ventilation is limited such as interior painting applications. It is for this reason that we recommend to all of our interior painting clients to use a low or no-VOC paint. VOCs can evaporate from the paint long after the “new paint” smell has gone and can have a negative impact on anyone who comes in contact with the contaminated air. VOCs are especially harmful to those with a lowered immune system due to age or sickness, those with respiratory problems, and pregnant or breast-feeding mothers. In fact, all hospitals are required to use no-VOC paints for all their interior painting applications.
Now that you have the information about VOCs you need to know how to protect yourself. A good rule of thumb for VOCs is, the lower, the better. We use a no-VOC paint for all of our customer’s interior applications. If you are using any strong smelling chemical we advise to get good airflow or possible invest in a ventilation mask and a good pair of goggles. Another way to protect others and reduce the impact of VOCs on the environment would be to share this article with friends and family. The more you know, the better you can protect yourself.
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