Question

I am pregnant and will be moving into an apt that has just been painted with B Moore paint. Is it safe or do we need to repaint?

Asked by AJ McCray
New York, NY

I am currently 16 weeks pregnant and will be moving into the new apartment in about 2 months. I wonder if we need to paint over the exisiting paint with something like AFM.

Answer

Kirsten Flynn

Answered by Kirsten Flynn

Palo Alto, CA

Sustainable Home

January 16, 2012

Hello AJ,

I am glad you are taking steps to limit your exposure to VOC's and other chemicals during your pregnancy.

However I believe that you will be alright moving into an apartment painted with Benjamin Moore paint.

  • I would not suggest repainting with AFM.
  • It would be very helpful if you could find what Benjamin Moore product was used to paint your apartment; they make 19 different interior paint products, with VOC (Volitile Organic Compound) levels varying from 0 to 375 g/L.

Low VOC paint standards

Lets break it down.

  • The EPA defines a low VOC paint (here) as being one that has less than 250 grams VOC per liter of paint.
  • However, this standard is quite high. Green Seal, an independent testing and certification company, considers a latex paint to be low VOC (here) if it is less than 50 g/L for flat and less than 150 g/L for other finishes.
  • This conforms to the standards set by the California Air Resources Board (here), which has been very proactive in setting standards for non-polluting architectural coatings, (also know as paints).
  • I consider the CARB standard to be reasonable, but I strive to use zero VOC products whenever possible.

VOC levels in Benjamin Moore paint

Of the Benjamin Moore paints that might have been used in your apartment, most are far below that standard.

  • See their paint catalog here.
  • The only wall paint that they make that might exceed the Green Seal standard would be the Satin Impervo Low Luster paint, at 375 g/L VOCs.
  • If the paint used is out of the Aura, Natura, or EcoSpec lines you are certainly between 0- 50 g/L. They have a Regal line that us over 50, but under 100 g/L.
  • Would it be possible to find out what paint was used?

Emissions highest during first 4 days

Additionally the paint emits the bulk of the VOCs as it is curing. By definition, these chemicals are volatile, meaning they are emitted into the air.

  • The level of emissions falls off sharply after 4 days, and is almost undetectable after 6 months.
  • You know that you will be moving into your apartment at least 2 months after painting, so the paint will have largely finished off gassing.

If you repaint, with any product, you will be resetting the clock to the period of time after painting where the most emissions occur.

There are those who are super sensitive to chemicals. American Formulating and Manufacturing, the other paint company you mentioned, has structured their product line specifically for people who are sensitive to chemical exposure. If you think you might have chemical sensitivity, their products are the most carefully researched of any line.

However, emissions from conventional low VOC paints are minimal, and have mostly dissipated within the first month.

Ask your landlord

It would be nice to contact your landlord, and check whether they did use one of Benjamin Moore's low or no VOC formulations (and encourage them to do so in the future), but I would not worry about your situation.

Enjoy your new apartment. 

 

For more information:

Read "I am remodeling my home and recently found out that I am pregnant. Is it safe for me to paint if I use no-VOC paints?" a Q&A answered by Florian Speier.

Tagged In: home air quality

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