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  Paint is a significant source of chemicals that continue to effect air quality long after application. A John Hopkins University study found that more than 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens may be present in paint12. They include acetone, ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, lead, pentachlorophenol and xylene. A study has found the prevalence of asthma to be related to emissions from newly painted indoor surfaces13. Fresh paint will continue to outgas chemicals for as long as one year.

Paint also may contain ingredients know to permanently lower sperm counts. Ethylene glycol, a common ingredient in paints, including many low-VOC paints, is one of these. You donít need to breathe paint fumes to be effected. The chemicals in paint are absorbed through skin on contact.

Safer Solutions

Read the label. Typically it says ďKnown to the State of California to cause cancer.Ē Most people donít take this seriously. As one comedian said, ďYou mean if Iím not in California, it doesnít hurt me?Ē

Consider selecting zero-VOC, low-VOC water-based or natural paints. These are available at most hardware and paint stores now. Ask the store for an MSDS. It wonít list all the ingredients but itís a starting point. Call the paint manufacture and ask for full disclosure of all the ingredients. Donít settle for ďitís a trade secretĒ. Modern analytical tests have allowed everyone to find out whatís in their competitors paint. There are no trade secrets. The best paint companies will tell you everything thatís in their paint.


Selecting a Paint

*Low & Zero VOC

Trade Brands

Low & Zero VOC

Alternative Brands

Natural Paints2 Milk Paint
Benjamin Moore

Pristine Eco Spec


Chem Safe

(866)-287-6892 ecoclean-az.com

Bio Shield

(800) 621-2591


Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company

(978) 448-6336


Sherwin Williams

Health Spec

AFM Safe Coat1

(619) 239-0321



(800)322-6843 aglaiapaint.com


(800) 621-2591




  Auro Natural Paints

(888) 302-9352


Real Milk Paint

(800) 339-9746





Lifemaster 2000


* Most major brands now carry a Low or Zero-VOC paint. Ask at your local paint store. While these are better than traditional blends, some of these have Ethylene glycol.

1 A popular line with those who are chemically sensitive.

2 These brands make Zero and low VOC paints. They also have natural paints that contain turpenes and citrus oils that smell and may cause reactions in some sensitive people. They disclose all ingredients.


A non-profit organization awards a Green-Seal to paints meeting minimum requirements.

All of the paints listed meet these requirements.


It can be frustrating to research healthy paints. You probably wonít get full disclose of all the ingredients from the manufacturer. There can be formaldehyde, acetone and other ingredients in paint which arenít on the label. Acetone, for example, isnít considered a VOC. So a can of paint could say zero-VOC and contain acetone.  If you have to settle for whatís available at the local paint store, chose the lowest VOC product. Low-odor and low-VOC is not the same thing. Paint can be low odor and still have high chemical content. Still, itís best to trust your nose after considering the ingredients that are listed.  

If you really want to be healthy and creative try milk paint or a natural paint. You buy the pigment powders separately and mix them to create beautiful and unique colors. Milk paint is made from the casein protein of cows and does not contain petrol-chemicals. For those of you who are eco-conscious as well, Auro and BioShield literally grow some of the oils in their products organically. Keep in mind that not all natural paints are low odor. Some contain oils that have an odor that bothers some people. Milk paint is low odor.

What ever paint you decide to use, paint when the building is vacated and when you wonít be home while itís drying. Open the windows during and after painting.

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Revised: July 05, 2017.

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