The Freshest, Greenest Finish
Nothing brightens up a space like a fresh coat of paint. All too often, however, the “clean” smell of new paint is actually vapor released from the toxic ingredients used as solvents in conventional paints. Known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), these include benzene, formaldehyde, kerosene, ammonia, toluene, and xylene, all of which are known carcinogens and neurotoxins. The more VOCs the paint contains, the stronger the odor. Exposure to VOCs can worsen asthma symptoms and cause nose, skin, and eye irritation; headaches, nausea, convulsions, and dizziness; respiratory problems; nerve damage; and, in some cases, liver and kidney disease.
The VOCs emitted by paint solvents also contribute to indoor air pollution and the formation of ground level ozone. A study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed that VOC levels indoors can be 1,000 times higher than outdoor levels when an indoor paint is drying. Another study found that the application and drying of paint releases VOCs at a higher rate than any other product used indoors. In sunlight, some organic solvents used in paint react with nitrous oxides in the atmosphere to form smog.
When renovating or doing home maintenance, avoid exposing your family, neighbors, or pets to lead-based paint hazards. Test for lead residues, keep surfaces clean of dust and chips, and if necessary hire a person skilled in correcting lead problems.
For your home painting jobs, choose VOC-free, no-VOC, or zero-VOC paints. Ask your office or building manager to use these paints as well.
Avoid alkyd- or oil-based paints, even if they are labeled low-VOC, and seek latex paints instead.
Ask your local hardware store or paint store to carry low-toxicity paints. Many leading paint companies now offer full lines of these paints.
I found these helpful paint and varnish tips at http://www.worldwatch.org/ and tomorrow... I will be going through my paints!