VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Compounds as defined by U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 40 CFR § 51.100 (s), (s) (1).
According to the EPA our indoor air is three times as polluted as our outdoor air. Indoor air pollution is more of a problem than outdoor pollution because of the amount of time we spend indoors (with windows closed) and the various chemical omitting products we have in our homes that builds up the toxicity levels over time. Paint is a large contributing factor to poor indoor air quality and can emit harmful chemicals, such as VOCs, for years after application.
The American Lung Association reports that VOC’s can produce a number of physical problems such as: eye and skin irritation, lung and breathing problems, headaches, nausea, muscle weakness and liver and kidney damage.
When choosing household paints it’s (unfortunately) easy to get lost in the Low Voc or No Voc labels. What you will ultimately need to do is read the label—just like in the grocery store. A Voc content in mixed paint (remember, adding your color tint adds voc) under 10 g/L is considered excellent.
I’ve decided to use a NO VOC base to help insure that when I add my tint I will be under a Voc content of 10 g/L. This will work with everything but my darker colors. It isn’t as easy to be green as I’d like it, but I’m at least reducing the off gassing in our home as much as possible.
For more information on what you can do to improve the air quality in your home, read Tips for improving Indoor Air Quality or watch HGTV Pro’s Video on the topic. I will share my paint color selections next time.