5 Things to Know about “Zero VOC” Paints

5 Things to Know about “Zero VOC” Paints

Every big paint company has a "Zero VOC" paint they tout as "environmental," and they are essentially all the same. Unfortunately, our team at AFM Safecoat gets frequent calls and letters from people who have used versions made by the big paint companies, believing that they were safe, but later find that something in the paint is making them sick.

Here at AFM Safecoat, we go far beyond VOC in formulating, so (thankfully!) a fresh coat of Safecoat® paint usually does the trick.

But what does “zero VOC” actually mean, and why is it important to find a brand that goes the extra mile in eliminating VOCs and toxic ingredients from its products?

Here is what you need to know:

  1. “VOC” stands for “Volatile Organic Compounds,” which the EPA defines as any compound of carbon, excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates and ammonium carbonate, which participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions, except those designated by EPA as having negligible photochemical reactivity.”
  2. Depending on the compound, VOCs can severely impact indoor air quality and result in negative health consequences. While short-term issues might be irritation of the eyes, nose or throat, or nausea and dizziness, some VOCs have the capability of causing liver or kidney damage, or even cancer.
  3. “Zero VOC” does not mean zero emissions – or necessarily even zero VOC! This is because government regulation of VOC is not concerned with toxicity or health; it is based simply on the fact that some VOCs react with nitrous oxides and ultraviolet light to form low level ozone, or smog. Any VOC that doesn’t cause smog, known as “exempt compounds,” does not count against a manufacturer’s VOC levels, allowing the product to be marketed as "zero" VOC. The EPA itself acknowledges that this has caused “misunderstanding in the marketplace and in the environmental community.”
  4. Along these lines, the fact a paint is “zero VOC” also does not mean that it does not contain toxic ingredients like formaldehyde, ammonia, acetone or odor masking agents (fragrance), or that it is free from off-gassing. And, if it does contain a masking agent or fragrance, then that is just another unnecessary chemical that could be hiding whatever effects may be occurring from chemicals coming off the paint.
  5. Reducing exposure to VOCs is possible! This is why it is so important to check the ingredients of the products you are considering using in your home. Some of the worst offenders the EPA recommends avoiding include formaldehyde, methylene chloride, benzene and perchloroethylene. And, as with any project where you’re using building materials, proper ventilation is key.

To make a paint that works from a health and reduced toxicity standpoint, you have to build it from the ground up – and that is what AFM Safecoat has been doing for the last 20 years. In fact, Safecoat® paint is one of the few “true registered” zero VOC paints on the market. All our products use high-quality, refined resins and raw materials to avoid the residual chemical compounds that off-gas and cause problems for people with allergies or sensitivities. Our products also contain no formaldehyde and no formaldehyde precursors – ever.

Have more questions about VOCs or which AFM products to use on your next project? Contact your nearest AFM vendor or shoot us a message here. We’re happy to help!