A Guide to Green Paint Certifications

11/01/2014 |

Look for logos that verify sustainability

Paint comes in every color under the sun, but sometimes unsightly ingredients hide within its jewel-toned hues. If you want to ensure refreshing your walls won’t produce fumes that are detrimental to occupants, consider specifying paint with a third-party certification.

These organizations have created green standards to authenticate performance, toxicity levels, and environmental claims.

Green Seal – GS-11 Paints and Coatings

This standard addresses product performance, environmental, and health requirements with an emphasis on low VOC content.

Certified products protect indoor air quality by avoiding restricted chemicals, requiring a strict accuracy test to measure VOCs, and including expanded consumer education criteria. It also limits the allowable VOC levels for base paint and colorants, ensuring even heavily tinted paints will remain in compliance.

Hazardous air pollutants, heavy metals, and ozone-depleting compounds are prohibited, as are carcinogens, mutagens, and reproductive toxins.

The standard also requires that packaging cannot contain heavy metals or phthalates and must include at least 20% recovered material.

Master Painters Institute – MPI Green Performance Standard for Paints and Coatings

The Green Performance Standards were established to challenge the thinking that VOC levels alone should determine a green coating. They encompass performance and durability in addition to environmental friendliness.

The MPI Green Performance Standard (GPS-1-12) requires that VOC concentrations shall not exceed those listed by the EPA Reference Test Method 24. Standard GPS-2-12 provides for a maximum allowable limit of 50 g/L of VOCs.

The standards also list 26 chemicals a product cannot contain. These include phltalates, mercury, formaldehydes, antimony, vinyl chloride, methyl ethyl or isobutyl ketone, and cadmium.

UL Environment – GREENGUARD Emission Criteria

GREENGUARD is an emissions certification with ingredient thresholds. For example, total VOCs cannot exceed 0.5 mg/m and formaldehyde must be less than 0.05 ppm.

Manufacturers must also submit a list of measured carcinogens and reproductive toxins as identified by California Proposition 65, the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), and the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC).

Any pollutant regulated as a primary or secondary outdoor air pollutant must meet a concentration that will not generate an air concentration greater than that promulgated by the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, which is part of the EPA’s Clean Air Act.

Scientific Certification Systems – SCS Indoor Advantage Gold

The SCS Indoor Advantage certification program evaluates products for Chronic Reference Exposure Levels (CRELS). CRELs are concentrations below which adverse health effects are unlikely to occur from long-term exposure to hazardous airborne substances.

For a product to qualify, its estimated VOC concentrations for classrooms and offices must not exceed half of the CREL concentrations, with the assumption that other products in a building may also be sources of the same compounds. These thresholds are based on California’s Office of Environmental Health, South Coast Air Quality Management District, and CA Special Environmental Section 01350.

Paint Chemicals of Concern

Not sure which ingredients are considered VOCs? These individual chemicals may cause health issues and are routinely prohibited by Green Seal, SCS, MPI, and GREENGUARD:

Styrene, toluene, formaldehyde, triphenyl or tributyl tins, mercury, alkylphenol ethoxylates, vinyl chloride, hexavalent chromium, phthalates, isophorone, benzene, lead, aldehydes, and methyl ethyl or isobutyl ketone.



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