If you enjoy painting your home and furniture, you must have heard lots of chatter about “VOCs” in paint. But you might wonder, what are these so-called Volatile Organic Compounds? What does “zero VOC” really mean? When can a company truly call their paint low VOC versus zero VOC? And to make things even more convoluted, are paint pigments included in the VOC count?
Most importantly, we should be asking if VOCs are harmful to our health or our family’s health. With the explosion of popularity in furniture paint, many companies are making claims about the safety of their products. We believe that it is crucial to ask questions about the validity of these claims. Often claims go unsubstantiated and we want to change that.
Instead of simply stating that we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our products, we want to explain to you in detail what VOCs are all about and if they are truly harmful to our well-being and to the environment.
To take it a step further, we also want to share our test results with you in an effort to create openness and conversation around VOCs and harmful chemical additives. We feel that you have the right to know the details of the products you are using in your home.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are gases that are released into the air from ordinary products such as paint, cleaning products, furniture, flooring, and cosmetics. VOCs can have short-term health effects such as headaches, respiratory issues, nausea, dizziness, and other ailments.1 Certain VOCs have also been proven to cause cancer in animals and thus are suspected to cause cancer in humans.1 Unfortunately, there are not many current source-based articles or research available about the long-term health effects of VOC exposure in our homes, and we believe there is a lot of research left to do to ensure your safety
Not only do VOCs have an impact on those who use the products and live in the space in which they are used, but many VOCs are also to blame for the formation of smog, which has adverse effects on the environment and human health.2
In order to improve air quality, both federal and provincial/state governments have set limits on the amount of VOCs in g/L (grams / liter) that products can contain. For example, the Canadian limit on paint with a flat sheen has a limit of 100 g/L.3
The state of California has been a leader in the USA by setting VOC concentration limits for consumer products; currently their limit is 50 g/L for paint that has a flat sheen finish, while the EPA (Federal) regulation allows for up to 250 g/L.4 The EPA standard also allows up to 5 g/L for a paint to be called zero VOC.
Some companies advertise their paint as zero VOC, and while it might be true for the base paint, pigments that may contain considerable amounts of VOCs are added to the paint and are not always taken into consideration.
In fact, in 2012 there was a settlement between two large paint manufacturers and the Federal Trade Commission, requiring the paint companies to stop making deceptive claims of “zero VOC” because even though their base paint had no VOCs, their tinted paints did contain VOC levels in considerable quantities.5
Pigments should most certainly be taken into account when making VOC claims.
We want to create products that are not detrimental to your health or the environment, therefore we have chosen to go above and beyond industry standards by formulating paint with ultra-low to no VOCs. In addition, the pigments used in the Country Chic Paint products are all VOC free, so you can rest assured that the colorants are not adding any VOCs to the paint.
When our products are formulated and manufactured, VOC levels are calculated based on the ingredients used. To err on the side of caution, we have not made zero VOC claims on our clay-based All-In-One Decor Paint, but have referred to this product as ultra-low VOC because the VOC level was calculated conservatively to be between 7-9 g/L.
To further ensure the safety of our customers, we tested a can of our paint in the color Liquorice according to the ASTM D6886 standard. We were very pleased to learn that the true VOC level of the All-in-One paint is actually <1, i.e. zero VOC! Want to see the test results for yourself? Click here to view the report.
In the formulation of our chalk-based Furniture & Home Decor Paint, the calculated VOC level was also 0 g/L (i.e. zero VOC). This was confirmed in ASTM D6886 test of our paint in the color Liquorice. You can find the test report here.
Not only does our paint contain no VOCs, all of our products are also free from other harmful chemicals (which do not fall under VOC regulation). Our products are formulated to NOT contain any of the following: phthalates, formaldehyde, heavy metals, turpentine, terpenes, benzene, mineral spirits, vinyl chloride, crystalline silica, acrolein, orthodichlorobenzene, isophorone, butanone, methylene chloride and alkylphenol ethoxylates. We strongly advise all consumers to take action and inquire to see if these chemicals are in the products they use.
Over the years, several different test methods have been developed to analyze VOC levels in paint and other products. Currently, there are several accepted methods of testing and certification, each having a slightly different scope and accuracy. Some only report a narrow subset of VOCs, and some only measure the VOCs present in the base of the paint without considering the pigments used. Others report all VOCs, but do not consider other types of harmful chemicals that may be present. Still, others operate on a “pass/fail” system where they report 0 VOC content if they are below a certain threshold.
In the proceeding section, we will outline two testing methods in particular to help you understand the different standards.
EPA Method 246 is a commonly used testing method in the paint industry, despite the fact that it is recognized by EPA itself to be reasonably inaccurate in measuring the results of low VOC, water-based paint.7 In fact, it is an unreliable test for paint containing VOCs less than 100 g/L.8 EPA also does not take all types VOCs into account,9 excluding those which contribute to smog formation. At Country Chic Paint, we cannot with a clear conscience simply state that our products are low or no VOC according to the EPA Method 24 standard, as the test method is inaccurate for our products.
The ASTM D6886 testing method is much better suited to water-based paint with low VOC levels and is offered through independent labs such as Berkeley International, Intertek and Eurofins.10 This method was developed specifically for paint with less 50 g/L content, and also measures VOC content at higher levels.11 At Country Chic Paint, we are dedicated to providing you with top quality products that are safe and do not pose a health risk. That is why we have opted to have our paint tested to ASTM D688612 standards which is considered to be 10 times more accurate than EPA Test Method 24!13
In our 2017 ASTM D6886 tests, both our Furniture & Home Decor Paint and All-in-One Decor Paint were measured to contain no VOCs! In an effort to provide complete transparency, we have opted to make these reports available. Instead of you having to take our word for it, you can view the reports for yourself here and here.
When looking for a paint to use in your home, do not be afraid do a little digging and demand transparency by asking for the appropriate test reports. Remember: EPA Method 24 testing will not give accurate results for VOC contents; ASTM D6886 is the most reliable test available for water-based paint.
We would never risk the health of our families, and we would never ask you to, either. If taking care of your health and the earth is important to you, we encourage you to make sure the paint products you are using has the same ethics and integrity that you do.