Our concern for a healthy environment both in our homes and in commercial spaces
has become increasingly important. We continue to search for design solutions
that will incorporate beauty with the further benefit of safety. Today, manufacturers
are searching for new technologies that will protect us from harmful elements
that may occur in the construction process.
Historically, all oil-based and water-based (latex) paints required the use
of petroleum-based solvents. These solvents produce volatile organic compounds
(VOCs), which can contribute to the formation of ozone, a pollutant. Even paints
with zero VOC content can contain VOCs if tinted with solvent-containing colorants.
Solvents thin the paint to the thickness viscosity needed for the application,
and then evaporate as the paint dries. However, solvents are a regulatory and
environmental concern. As solvents evaporate during the application and drying
of the paint, they react with other chemicals to form ozone, a component of
smog and air pollution. Additionally, liquid solvents in paints can also be
harmful to groundwater if disposed of improperly. Finally, paints containing
petroleum solvents can create fumes and result in downtime at the jobsite to
allow odors to dissipate.
In order to address these types of issues, ICI Paints became the first manufacturer
to formulate a paint that contains no petroleum-based or other organic solvents.
Manufacturers' claims of a no-VOC product are substantiated by the Scientific
Certification Systems (SCS), an independent organization. SCS conducts analyses
to verify the accuracy of environmental claims on products, using a test procedure
that can accurately detect even small amounts of solvents in architectural coatings.
Essentially, it is a process where the paint is injected into a chamber and
carefully calibrated instruments read the content of paint for volatile organic
compounds. SCS awards a green cross to indicate that the paint contains no smog-producing
ingredients or VOCs.
If a paint company claims "No VOCs," then its test method must be
able to detect down to zero grams/liter with a margin of error not to exceed
2.5 grams/liter. It is important to note that even though a coating says no
or low VOCs, this usually means it is tested without colorants. The Material
Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for a particular paint company's colorants will indicate
the increased VOCs associated with a particular colorant.
Paints without VOCs are ideal for interior use in commercial, institutional,
and residential buildings. Because the paint has virtually no odor or solvents,
it is most appropriate for indoor use, and will not result in the adverse reaction
by employees, customers, and patients that are sometimes associated with solvent-based
paints. Therefore, a room may be painted in the morning and put back in use
almost immediately. There is little or no functional loss of important facilities.
To summarize, important technological progress has been made to the natural
and synthetic chemicals that make up "no VOC" paint, resulting in
improved environmental characteristics. These "no- VOC" products offer
significant benefits to the consumer, as well as protecting the quality of our
environment. Lori McWain is strategic account manager, and Dennis Gough is specification
consultant, at Cleveland-based ICI Dulux Paints, North America (http://www.iciduluxpaints.com)
or call (800) 984-5444.