Question

I am 8 months pregnant and my builder is having to come back in and repaint our baseboards and cabinets. Is there a safe yet strong alternat

Asked by Meredith
Burleson, TX

I need durability but want my babies to be safe from toxins. Something durable yet better for health.

Answer

Kirsten Flynn

Answered by Kirsten Flynn

Palo Alto, CA

Sustainable Home

May 19, 2014

Hi Meredith, Your question brings up a very important issue in green building. The problem of durability vs. chemical health risks. The chemicals in our everyday products were not put there because the paint formulators were evil and wanted to poison us. In most cases products are being reformulated to deliver some performance enhancement. The problem is that, because of weak chemical regulation in our country (don’t get me started on the problems with the Toxic Substances Control Act http://www.edf.org/health/policy/chemicals-policy-reform) many of the chemicals used in our homes bring us both some product improvement and health issues. In other cases, chemical additions are to realize cost savings for the manufacturer. Often higher quality paints are worth the price, as they do not make these chemical shortcuts. I prefer acrylic latex paint which is more durable, and more expensive, rather than the less expensive vinyl acetate, because I have concerns about vinyl based chemical formulations. The tough answer is that sometimes there is a trade off between durability and health. But to make the best selection for you I would recommend the following. Standards for low VOC (Volitile Organic Compound) paints were formulated to reduce air pollution, not specifically for health. So please select a zero VOC paint. Additionally, you can search for paints that meet the GS-11 standard from the Green Seal company (http://www.greenseal.org/GreenBusiness/Standards.aspx?vid=ViewStandardDetail&cid=0&sid=6), this also checks for carcinogens and heavy metals, like lead or cadmium, in the paint. Unfortunately the list of paints that have met that standard is not long, they have a searchable database here: http://www.greenseal.org/FindGreenSealProductsandServices.aspx?vid=ViewProductDetail&cid=0&sid=6. The chemicals that are of most concern in paint are Biocides (which can include formaldehyde), Fungicides, and Benzine. One source of information is the MSDS for the paint you are thinking of using. This document with list any chemicals considered hazardous. They usually are available on the web site of the paint company, for example here they are for YOLO Colorhouse, a green paint company : http://www.yolocolorhouse.com/pros/interior-msds-product-data-sheets/ I also really like the paints from Benjamin Moore, and although they do not gone through the Green Seal GS-11 certification process, they are tested to be able to meet all the same standards. I have used these paints in several houses had good results.They have a very interesting comparison of the different green standards that affect paints, and which of their products meet those standards here: http://www.benjaminmoore.com/en-us/for-architects-and-designers/green-promise-environmentally-friendly-paint So to summarize, look for a paint that is zero VOC, certified by Green Seal, and says bio-cide and/or fungi-cide free. I think you will be happy with the durability and feel secure you are providing a healthy indoor environment for your family. By the way, congratulations! Kirsten A Flynn Sustainable Home www.sustainablehome.com

Tagged In: low voc paint, green paint, paint off gassing

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