Organic Paints: Better For You And The Planet

If you have just bought a house or are simply planning on renovating the one you have already, it is natural to think about changing the palette of your home. Unfortunately, however, many paints on the market can make your home less healthy because of the toxic fumes that they give off – fumes which can affect both indoor and outdoor air quality. Read on to find out more about how – and where – to choose the healthiest paints on the market.

The Problem with Paints

There are several ingredients in regular paints that make them problematic for use in the healthy house. The first are compounds known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When you paint a wall, for instance, these compounds leach into the air in a process known as “off gassing” and this can go on for weeks. VOCs can cause side effects like headaches, allergic skin reactions, and irritations of the nose, eyes and throat. Other ingredients in regular paint like biocides and pigments are also known to be toxic. These ingredients are the best reason to choose a more natural paint.

Green Paints are Better for You and the Planet

“Green” or “eco-friendly” paints are those which are based on more natural products like latex or recycled latex (which is water-based) or even milk-based paints, which use a milk protein called casein as their base. These paints have little to no volatile organic compounds and you will be exposing yourself to far fewer toxic chemicals if you use these products. Not only are you making sure that your home is healthier, but you are also helping the environment; VOCs are a major source of urban smog and, as an example, the California Air Resources Board estimates that fully ⅔’s of the 176 million pounds of VOC emissions are due to off-gassing from paints. In short, it can really add up.

What to Look for When You Shop

You are probably wondering at this point just what to look for when you go to the home improvement store for your next shop. The key is to look for paints that are 1) labeled as low or zero VOC, 2) low in biocides, and 3) use natural pigments. By law, “low VOC” means less than 50g/liter of VOCs, while “zero VOC” designates paint that is below 5g/liter. There are several third-party organizations which independently evaluate just how “green” a product is; if you look for the label “Green Seal” or “Master Painter’s Institute Green Certified”, you will know that the company and product have had to live up to high standards to earn these certifications. For example, Benjamin Moore’s Natura Line has earned an MPI Green certification.

The Best Lines of Eco-Friendly Paints

Still confused? That’s okay! There are several companies that have put out healthy, eco-friendly paint lines that take the guesswork out of your next paint purchase. Among the larger companies, Benjamin Moore leads the way in eco-friendly paints, starting with the most natural and least toxic ingredients in the industry: their Natura paint line is considered to be one of the lowest in VOC’s and their other natural paint lines such as Aura, Ben, and Eco-Spec are also healthy for the home. If you prefer to purchase from smaller companies, then businesses like the American Formulating Company, the Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company, and the Real Milk Paint Company are good bets.

So when you are picking out the palette for your home, consider choosing a “greener” paint; it is not only better for the environment but for your health as well.


Brian Wu
Brian Wu is currently an eighth-year student at the University of Southern California, where he is pursuing his Medical Degree. He currently holds a PhD in integrative biology and disease. He has successfully founded his own company, writing a series of books called Health Stories for Kids.

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