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Non Toxic Spray Paints: Is it Possible?

written by: Jayant R Row•edited by: BStone•updated: 11/9/2010

Paints do tend to leave their strong imprint on the atmosphere around a newly painted room and can cause discomfort to people with allergies. Using a non-toxic spray paint is now a concern for the green building community.

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    When Are Spray Paints Considered Toxic?

    spray paint Paints contain volatile organic compounds or VOC’s which are not good for the environment, can pollute a home and can cause allergies and other health problems such as headaches and eye and throat irritations. Where concentrations are very heavy and exposure continuous, these VOC’s are believed to be possible carcinogens. VOC is listed in grams per liter and can range from 5 to 200. A non-toxic spray paint would contain the lowest content. Solid content contributes further to less VOC’s and thus reduces toxicity.

    Image source: Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hamedog/330449219/sizes/z/in/photostream/

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    Types of Eco-Friendly Spray Paints

    Non-toxic spray paint is that which is made from natural ingredients or that which has a Zero VOC of less than 5 grams per liter. Low VOC paints are also considered to be eco-friendly with their higher solid content that makes the paint less toxic.

    Water based natural paints give almost no smell. An oil based natural paint on the other hand would contain natural aromatic compounds like citrus or other oils which give off a very pleasant smell. Because of this the paints would cause no allergies and be environmentally safe. Other ingredients in natural paints would include oils and resins obtained from plants, and other natural products like talcum, chalk and clay, whereas other additives would again be natural products like bees’ wax, natural latex, casein from milk, and other mineral dyes.

    Paints with VOC lesser than 5 grams per liter, or Zero VOC paints, will still use some fungicides, biocides and colorants while a color tint can cause an elevated VOC. These paints are still considered non-toxic but are better avoided in places where children or babies may spend time.

    Low VOC paints are those that use water as a carrier instead of any petroleum based products. This makes them less toxic than normal paints which are solvent based. Such non-toxic spray paints would have a VOC of below 50 grams per liter.

    Milk paint is a paint that is water based and has been in use for centuries. Its ingredients are essentially milk, lime, pigments and borax. It however has a very short shelf life because of the milk content, but the paint is a favorite with the advocates of non-toxic paint.

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    Painting the Environmentally Friendly Way

    Green painting can help to reduce any of the deleterious effects of paint. This would involve proper planning of the paint job to see that the paint is just sufficient for the job and there is no wastage. As an opened paint can will cause the paint to dry and deteriorate, extra unused paint is more likely to find its way to disposal dumps. Paints that are to be used should be the natural paints that are water or oil based or those with Zero or Low VOC. Cleaning fluids used to remove paint or clean equipment should be environmentally friendly products like citrus based cleaners.

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    References

    Non-Toxic Paints - http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_paints.htm