How Green Is My Home? – Part II – No Bliss In Ignorance

Ignorance about toxins in the environment

is no state of bliss.

Today’s no or low VOC paints are much improved

It could kill you, eventually.

There are now small libraries on green building, renovation techniques and materials to guide you, should you so desire, but any homeowner will simply need to paint from time to time.

You have probably heard of VOC’s, which stand for volatile organic compounds.  These are low-level toxic emissions released by conventional paints.  How is it that VOC’s are present in paint to begin with?

Paint isn’t just colored liquid.

It’s pigment, plus a binding agent that makes the paint adhere to the wall, plus a solvent to keep pigment and binding agent in liquid form until it’s applied to the designated surface.  This solvent evaporates when the paint is applied, leaving the binding agent and pigment stuck to the wall where it belongs.

It’s the solvent that’s the culprit.

The VOC’s are released as the solvent evaporates.

Headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, drowsiness, nausea, and eye and respiratory irritation are all side effects of short-term exposure to VOC’s, but long term exposure has caused cancer and tissue damage to liver, kidney and the nervous systems of laboratory animals.

If it’s bad for the poor animals, it certainly can’t be good for us

Obviously, the best idea is to minimizing exposure, but be advised that VOC’s are so commonly present in indoor and outdoor air that the  EPA, The New York State Department of Health and other agencies sometimes refer to these levels as “background levels”.

A short list of products containing ingredients that emit these toxic fumes is about 150 items long and includes common household products such as furniture polishes, hair spray, dry cleaned clothes, moth balls, carpets and upholstered furniture.

In other words, the VOC’s in house paint aren’t your only problem,

so you are wise to be mindful

of the bigger picture of environmental pollution.

One major company at the forefront of addressing this issue is Benjamin Moore with two new formulas, Aura, Eco Spec, and recently Natura, containing low or zero VOC’s.  Any of their extensive color line can be mixed into these bases.  Other low VOC companies to check out are:,, and

Stay tuned for Part III – More Wake-up Calls

Related Posts

How Green Is My Home – Part I – The Green Cosmic Joke

How Green Is My Home? – Part III – More Wake-Up Calls

Seasonal Decorating: Spring Break

Photo Courtesy Blog.StyleEstate.Com,  Eco Friendly Decorating Trends For 2009

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