Friday, September 26, 2008

Healthy Painting: Options for Non-Toxic House Paints

There are so many things we do and use in our daily lives that can effect our health that figuring out what products to use can be overwhelming at times. The good news is that today, more than ever, there are "green" and healthy options available for most products. One important health and environmental choice to consider when building or renovating a home is paint for the interior of the house.

Interior household paint has been manufactured for years with a variety of toxic components from mercury (for mildew and mold resistance) and lead to chemicals that have volatile organic compounds (VOCs). While lead and mercury are no longer allowed in paints, many still contain off-gassing volatile organic compounds. These are carbon-containing chemicals which release vapors that have been found to be hazardous to human health in varying degrees. These vapors are much more concentrated inside a building, so choosing paints that do not contain VOCs or have very low levels is a good “green” choice for your personal health as well as the greater environment. See the EPA website listed below for more information about VOCs.

The good news is that there are now a number of “green” paint options available for the consumer. The final decision about which paints to use will be based on your personal preference and odor tolerance, as well as where you will be using the paints - some are better for areas that will get wet or splattered; others create a warm, earthy quality; and some are designed for use on certain materials.

Some “green” paints are made from natural ingredients, others are derived from synthetic chemicals but are formulated to emit no or low VOCs. Explore the websites below to learn more about types of paints and color availability.

I personally love the smells of the natural based paints, but some people can’t tolerate them or don’t like them. A word of advice – don’t choose the milk powder based paints for places that will get wet or for behind your stove. Instead choose paints that can be easily cleaned. And have fun in the wonderful world of natural colors that many of the companies below offer.

Natural Paint options include:

The Bio Shield Paint Company sells non-toxic, no-VOC paints, finishes and other household products. Their milk-based paints come in dry form and need to be mixed with water. Their no-solvent premixed paint is water-based, as is their clay-paint. They also sell color “wash” paints. BioShield is committed to offering natural and non-toxic products safe for the environment. BioShield Paint Company, 3215 Rufina Street, Santa Fe, NM 87507, 800-621-2591;

Auro Natural Paints and Finishes sells non-toxic, no-VOC paints and finishes, as well as adhesives. Their products were developed with sponsorship from the German Federal Environmental Foundation. They use natural pigments and other natural-based materials in their products. Auro Natural Paints, 1340-G Industrial Avenue 
Petaluma, CA 94952, 888-302-9352; fax: 707-769-7342;

American Clay Plaster products are made in the U.S.A. American Clay offers three different plaster finishes in 35 basic colors made from natural clays, recycled and reclaimed aggregates, and natural pigments. American Clay Plaster, 8724 Alameda Park Drive NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113; 866-404-1634;;

TierraFino Clay, a Dutch company with dealers around the world including a number in the U.S., produces a variety of non-toxic clay based paints and plasters. Tierrafino, Carl Giskes V.O.F., Tweede Helmersstraat 51, 1054 CD Amsterdam the Netherlands; Tel.: +31 (0)20-689-2515 ; Fax: +31 (0)20-616584;;

No-VOC Synthetic-based Paint options include:

AFM Safecoat Paint sells no or low VOC synthetic based paints and other non-toxic household products. At their website you can download MSDS sheets (Material Safety Data Sheets) which disclose all the ingredients and health hazards for every product. In addition to regular household wall paints, AFM sells specialty paints such as metal primers and paints not available from natural paint companies. Not sold through the website but through dealers, which can be located at the website. For general information call: 619-239-0321; Email:;

Best Paint Company produces no-VOC synthetic-based, interior and exterior paints in over 1000 colors and provides MSDS sheets for their products. Founded by someone made ill by epoxy paint, Best Paint is dedicated to producing high quality, non-toxic products. Best Paint Company, P.O. Box 3922, Seattle, WA 98124: 206-783-9938; fax: 206-783-5017;;

Mythic Non-Toxic Paint was developed in conjunction with the University of Mississippi. It is an acrylic latex paint with zero VOCs and is “ultra low odor.” Mythic is available in seventeen colors for exterior and interior applications. The vintage-style labeled containers come in three sizes. MSDS sheets are available for download at their website. Mythic Paints, 2714 Hardy St., Hattlesburg, MS 39401; 888-714-9422;

See kt Color below

Low- VOC paint options include:

kt.color offers paints made in Switzerland using mineral pigments and environmentally sound binders. Available in 106 colors, the Flat and Satin paints are arcylic polymer based, solvent-free, and no- or low-VOC depending on the color. kt Color distributed through Aronson's, 135 West 17th Street, NYC; 212-243-4993 x24;; Open Monday to Friday 9am - 6pm.

Fine Paints of Europe is an American company selling a line of Dutch-based paint products, many of which are conventional oil and acrylic based paints. Their new line, “ECO” is water-based and considered a low-VOC paint, available as primer and paint in an enormous variety of colors. Fine Paints of Europe, O.O. Box 419, Woodstock, VT 05091; 800-332-1556; fax: 802-457-1740;;

Link – EPA website page about VOCs:

NOTE: MSDS Sheets: Material Safety Data Sheets, called MSDS sheets, were designed by the government to be used by employers, employees and emergency medical personnel to document complete ingredients and toxicity levels for safe handling procedures. While not intended for consumer use, MSDS sheets can be very useful to consumers trying to determine the safest products to use. If you are researching other paint products not listed here, be sure and ask for the specific product MSDS sheet.

No comments: