According to the EPA, the concentration of pollutants inside your home is several times higher than what you’ll find outside,Paints due to the lack of ventilation in rooms compared to the open spaciousness of the great outdoors. Without proper ventilation, airborne chemicals collect indoors and eventually cause damage to our bodies. Headaches, dizziness, fatigue, asthma, cancer, and heart disease are all potential side effects of indoor air pollution. Although the contamination cannot be attributed to any single source, paint and paint-related chemicals play a significant role inside a typical home.
The airborne chemicals released during painting, after the paint is dry, and as paint is removed, fall into a category of pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—potentially carcinogenic carbon-based chemicals that evaporate easily and contribute to indoor air pollution. Harmful compounds in the VOC category range from formaldehyde to pesticides to cleaning chemicals. They can be up to ten times more concentrated indoors than outdoors, in both rural and industrial locations. However, VOCs contribute significantly to air pollution out of doors as well. VOCs are released in the highest concentrations during paint application, but most paint will continue to emit harmful fumes for years afterwards.
The quality of many natural paints is commonly criticized because, in times past, colors tended to fade and you could not wash the walls without a touch-up following close behind. Newer eco paints, especially some newer lime washes, are more durable, washable, and longer lasting than those that came before them—some are even used for the restoration and preservation of national monuments!
- Clay Paint
- Lime Wash
- Milk Paint
Exterior Paints and Finishes
Unfriendly chemicals are often required to toughen paints slated for use in the great outdoors. Natural paints are rarely tough enough for outdoor use, so the variety of environmentally friendly outdoor paint is not nearly as extensive. Fortunately, the problem of VOCs is far less detrimental in outside painting projcts, as the air dilutes the effect of VOCs and awards outdoor paints and finishes a little leeway that is not given to indoor-use options. Outdoor coatings may call themselves eco-friendly as long as the product does not contain heavy metals or toxins.
Green remodelers concerned about outdoor air pollution do have options for low-VOC outdoor coverings. For those of us who are determined to find a completely natural exterior coating, the options are generally limited to stain, finish, or lime wash.