Americans on average spend up to $200 on redecorating, after all, most of us like the idea of a quick home make-over. But how we decorate our homes, from the paint we choose to the upholstery and furniture we buy, can all have an impact on our health and the environment. Giving tired-looking or dated walls a fresh lick of paint is one of the quickest ways to change the look and feel of our homes. But the Environmental Protection Agency classifies paint as being one of the most hazardous substances, not just for our health, but for the environment too. Creating an eco-friendly home by reducing the impact of interior design products and furnishings can have a huge impact on your indoor air quality, the environment and our health.
What’s In Your Paint?
Your tin of decorating will likely contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When you spread your brush covered in paint across your walls, the chemicals that make a wet wall become dry are VOCs which are released into both your home and the environment. Although some VOCs will leave the paint as it dries, not all do. For the duration the paint is on your walls, it will continue to release chemicals into your home and the environment.
What you might not realize is while VOCs may perform a useful function in paint, you actually don’t need VOCs in your paint. An increasing number of paint manufacturers are now offering low and no VOC paint alternatives. A paint containing no VOCs will have under five grams of VOCs per liter as required by the Environmental Protection Agency. Paint with less than 250 grams of VOCs per liter is classed as low-VOC paint.
Effects Of Paint Pollution On Health
Continued exposure to VOCs contained in paint and paint fumes can have significant implications for your family’s health. It can irritate skin, eyes and airways, cause headaches, trigger asthma and allergies, cause damage to the liver and nervous system, put stress on the heart and even lead to some cancers. The World Health Organization reports a 20% to 40% increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, particularly lung cancer, for those who come into regular contact with paint. The effect of VOCs can be particularly harmful to more vulnerable people such as children, the elderly and those with existing health conditions.
Environmental Impact Of VOCs
VOC levels can be as much as 10 times higher in the home compared to outside and are produced by thousands of products we use in the home from cleaners to personal care. As the paint is used, the levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) given off increases and can be up to 1000 times higher than outdoors.
When VOC’s come into contact with oxygen, the reaction can create bad ozone in the presence of sunlight. This contributes to the greenhouse effect and a factor in global warming. Paints and varnishes can cause as much as 5% of all VOC emissions. Once released into the atmosphere, some of these harmful compounds can accelerate plant growth. This can then lead to the growth of dense vegetation in certain areas resulting in a devastating impact on local wildlife.
A Simple Makeover Can Make a Big Difference
There is something very uplifting about giving your home a quick makeover. Even just changing the color of the walls can completely transform a room. Choosing paints and varnishes containing either low or no VOCs will ensure that you are not just protecting the health of your family, but you are also protecting the health of the planet too.