Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's all the Hype over "VOC's" about?

So what are VOC’s? Why are they added to paints and plasters? Why is everybody making a big deal over them anyway?

Architectural paints are classified generally in two categories: water based where water is the carrier or solvent and oil-based where the solvent is an organic liquid derived from petrochemicals. Paints can consist of solvents, toxic metals and other compounds. In both oil based and latex based paints when the paint is applied the carrier or solvent evaporates into the atmosphere off-gassing VOCs and leaving behind a solid coating (a painted surface).

Volatile Organic Compounds are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapor pressures under normal conditions to vaporize and enter the atmosphere. VOC’s may be natural or synthetic. There are millions of compounds which may be classified as VOCs. The compounds that you can smell are generally VOC’s including fuels, solvents, coatings, and feed stock.

The problem with VOC’s is that as organic chemicals they may have serious health consequences. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates paint within its top five environmental hazards and has produced research that shows that VOC level indoors while paint is drying are 1000 times higher than outdoors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the dangers for people who work with paints. It reports that painters have a 20% increased risk of a range of cancers and a 40% increased risk of lung cancer. The (WHO) is also concerned about the long term effects of “off gassing” which is the release of toxic vapors over the life of the paint in your house. In Denmark, specialists have identified a neurological condition brought on by long term exposure to paint solvents known as “Painters Dementia”.

Children and older people are particularly susceptible to solvent vapors. Headaches, skin problems, heart stressing, and effects on the reproductive system is something to consider before working with these high VOC materials or putting them in someone’s home. Oil paints as you can tell from the smell are worse than that of water based acrylics.

In the USA the coatings regulations cap VOC in flat paints at 250 grams per liter (g/l). Most of California, CT, PA, NJ, DC, VA, ME, NH caps theirs at 100 g/l. Los Angeles and the surrounding basin being capped at 50 g/l.

At Firenze Enterprises we are proud to say that our lime based products including Firenzecolor Fine, Carrara Fine, and Carrara Coarse are absolutely “0” VOC g/l. If you combine them with mineral tints they do not exceed VOC 20 g/l. Our decorative finishes including Dune Africa and Swahili are as follows:

Swahili Gold- 15g/l
Swahili Silver- 15 g/l
Dune Gold- 15g/l
Dune Silver- 13 g/l
If these are tinted with low VOC tints up to 10% colorant they reach a maximum of 60 g/l.

So now that we understand a little about VOC let’s help to create healthy work places for ourselves as painters and artisans and help to create healthy living areas for our clients by choosing low and no VOC alternatives.