Low- and No-VOC Paints

Some information on volatile organic compounds, and a few products that have low- or no-VOCs.

I asked Rachel to write up a little something about low- and no-VOC paints because we get questions about them all the time from clients. Like lead and asbestos, VOCs are one of those environmental pollutants that we are all warned about, but vaguely, something to be afraid of in a non-specific way. I went to the EPA site about VOCs - link here - and was pretty surprised with what I found. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are common airborne pollutants, and are found in quantities 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than without, regardless of where the houses were located: rural, urban, or industrial. They are present in many household chemicals, such as copiers, printers, cosmetics, some cleaning supplies, and of course, paint. (Their possible presence in cosmetics really made me mad, let me tell you.)


Unsurprisingly, most exposures to VOCs take place in short concentrated durations, such as when you paint a room. TigerOx Painting uses primarily Sherwin Williams, Hirshfield's, and Benjamin Moore paints, and both of those companies have a variety of paints that have either low- or no- VOCs. We have had good luck with SWP's "Duration Home" and "ProGreen" as well as Benjamin Moore's "Aura" and Hirshfield's "BEN". All of these are low-VOC paints. Although we haven't had a chance to paint with this yet, Benjamin Moore has a new paint called "Natura" which has no-VOCs. Another no-VOC paint is SWP's "Harmony".


In general these paints are not cheap: $30-$50 a gallon for us to buy, and that's with our contractor's discount. Paint costs have been rising across the board, partially because paint is a petroleum product, and you know how gas prices are, and partially because the US is in a resource competition with China and other industrializing nations for the metals and pigments that give paint its color. (You'll notice that deep-based paints cost more than white; color costs.) Manufacturing paints to be low- and no-VOC adds another price factor. I'm not saying they aren't worth the price. "Aura" has excellent coverage, so with a dark color, you will use less paint. "BEN" and "ProGreen" are both low-VOC, and are less expensive than some of the other paints mentioned. The upshot is that there are a variety of products to choose from to help minimize your exposure to indoor pollutants, and at a variety of prices.