Trying to build as greenly as possible means constant decisions.
1. What company to go with?
Then, as we prepared to paint the interior walls of the house, our plasterer, Krome Burke-Scoll pointed out that Hallman Lindsay paints are produced here in Wisconsin, making local paint a possibility. But the closest dealer is in Madison, some 30 miles away. Meanwhile we could get Benjamin Moore paints from a local dealer in Dodgeville, which is only 10 miles from Underhill House.
I decided to go with Hallman Lindsay, which has a good reputation and is manufactured nearby, even though I have to drive a little farther to pick up paint. I try to include paint runs with other nearby errands and keep the miles down as much as possible.
2. How about VOCs?
When you open a can of paint, what are you looking at? What are you about to put on your wall?
That can is full of \
- Pigments – powders that give paint its covering power and its color
- Binders – that hold the powder together
- Solvents – that make the paint liquid when brushed or rolled on, then evaporate leaving a colored film on the surface
It may also contain
- Thickening agents
- Antisettling agents
If it is an oil-based paint, it will use a binder derived from a drying vegetable oil like linseed oil, which sounds harmless, but the oils are diluted with thinners like turpentine, and metallic salts that increase the rate of drying.
If it is a latex paint, the particles are bound together with acrylic or vinyl. Latex paints are durable and pretty color fast and the equipment can be cleaned with water, which makes it seem so much less toxic.
But even latex paints have been a source of VOCs – volatile organic compounds. Pigments and binders can also contain VOCs.
VOCs evaporate into the air and become a menace. They can react with other elements to produce ozone and may cause cancer.
As paint dries, these nasty VOCs are at least 10 times higher than outdoor levels and can be up to 1,000 times higher right after painting. They’ll keep seeping out into the air you breathe for some time. Only about 50 percent is released in the first year.
Paint-related products are one of the worst environmental offenders. They’re the second largest source of VOC emissions into the atmosphere after automobiles, responsible for roughly 11 billion pounds every year, according the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Home Guide
According to Consumer Reports, Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of the American Lung Association, says studies suggest an increased prevalence of respiratory problems consistent with higher VOC levels in freshly painted homes. “Generally speaking less is always better,” she says.
But, those VOCs were there for a reason. When you remove them, you are removing features you may want in your paint.
The salesperson at Hallman Lindsey assured me that their no VOC paints will perform well on the wall. The difference he warned me about is that the new paints won’t last as long in the can. It can go bad, and he did not hazard a prediction of how long it will keep on the shelf. That’s a little unnerving, but a trade-off I’m willing to make.
We are using low and no-VOC paints in Underhill House. Time will tell if they are as durable on the wall as their more toxic predecessors.
What is your experience with no-VOC paints?