Why does finding healthy paint matter?
Paint and finish don’t just add colour to a room or a new baby crib, they can also release smelly, irritating, and toxic substances into the air. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that paints and finishes are one of the top culprits in polluting our indoor air and can continue to off-gas for years after application. They are one of the major contributors to indoor air pollution and part of why indoor air quality is 5 to 7 times more polluted than outdoor air. (And can be up to a 1,000 times more polluted after painting or varnishing.) The health effects of VOCs range from headaches and eye irritation to damage to the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system, and cancer (with prolonged exposure).
Tips for finding healthier paints
- While it may be enough to get No-VOC paints for a wall, food-grade finishes are always the best choice for furniture and toys. A clear finish may look more natural, but even those labelled “water-based” and “non-toxic” may still be toxic. That’s because “water-based” just means it isn’t petroleum-based, and “non- toxic,” well, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything in North America because the use of the term isn’t regulated.
- If you don’t have to paint the nursery, don’t. If a fresh layer of paint is necessary, use No or Zero VOC paints (which can still have VOCs particularly after colour has been added). Or use paints made of natural materials, like clay or milk. Get someone else (who is not pregnant) to do the painting, and leave the windows open with fans blowing outside for as long as possible. Never put a newborn into a freshly painted room.
- Look for third party certifications such as Greenguard that prove a product has fewer VOCs and is safe for indoor air quality (IAQ).