Low-VOC Paint and Indoor Air Quality


The walls inside your home are a blank canvas and for relatively little investment, you can paint them with either a subtle hint or a powerful punch of color. But what about indoor air quality (IAQ)? One whiff from a standard can of paint and you will know that it contains a cocktail of toxins, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which emit harmful chemicals into your home while you are painting and often times, long after the walls have dried.

According to Henning Bloech, Executive Director of Greenguard Environmental Institute, an indoor air quality testing lab in Atlanta, homeowners “insist on understanding the health impact of their buying decisions and knowing that products show little or no likelihood of emitting chemicals that might affect them and their families.” Thankfully, public awareness over health concerns surrounding VOCs have propelled indoor air quality (IAQ) as a mainstream issue and manufacturers have responded with greener options.

Low- or zero-VOC paint and finish alternatives are available from several manufacturers. A long-time favorite of eco-minded homeowners, AFM Safecoat http://www.afmsafecoat.com/ayurveda/healing.html offers an Ayurveda Essence Color system based on the ancient medical arts of India. These mood-enhancing colors are easily coordinated to create harmonizing color combinations so you can be calm, healthy and happy.

Searching websites such as www.greenguard.org and Scientific Certification Systems www.scscertified.com will yield good green-labeled products.


  1. Hi Tracy,

    I'll look up that company with the mood-enhancing colors the next time I'm ready to paint!

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Painting my apartment is something that I need to do, but frightens me (I've had to abandon new apartments and lose security deposits more than once in the past) because I have such a strong reaction to chemicals in indoor settings.

    I even bought a custom-made eco-friendly couch and couldn't sit on it for more than a year because of the fire-retardant used in the fabric.

    Like Rita says, I'm definitely going to check out this paint company - and many, many thanks for the reference.

  3. Hi Vickie,

    You may also want to check out the Bau-Biologie Institute http://www.buildingbiology.net, although I don't have any direct experience with them I have heard good things. Also,the Greenguard Children and Schools is the most stringent IAQ certification on the market but note not every paint manufacturer has their product tested. My last bit of advice would be to choose less saturated colors as the pigment or dye contain more irritants and have someone else paint a well-ventilated space in warm dry weather so the paint cures faster. Good luck and I wish you well!


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