No VOC is not really No VOC - How Can We Rely on What We Hear?
In doing research on the use and elimination of ethylene glycol in paints and also on claims of ZERO VOC, I was very disappointed. Many companies claim no VOCs, but really what they have is a low VOC product. According to the EPA Reference Test Method 24, any paint that has a VOC of 5 grams/liter or less can be called Zero VOC. Therefore, many manufacturers who claim Zero VOC's may still be selling paints with colorants, biocides and fungicides that do emit some VOC's.
With all this confusing labeling, how can we really know what we are getting? I keep coming back to what Eric Corey Freed told us in a previous interview, ASK QUESTIONS! Take the time to do your own investigation, because in the end it's your health. Before selecting a paint that claims to be Zero VOC, ask the sales person what is in it. If possible, take a look at the ingredients. If it smells rotten, it probably is.
In my research, here are a few companies who instead of focusing on promoting their certifications, focus on being transparent about the toxins they do not use. Keep in mind that this does not mean that their paints do not contain other toxins or chemicals not mentioned.
Yolo Colorhouse - Zero VOC, free of phthalates or carcinogens, ammonia free, formaldehyde free, free of ethylene glycol, free of crystalline silica.
Dunn-Edwards - Zero-VOC, low odor, ethylene glycol-free
Old Fashioned Milk Paint - Zero VOC, lead free, no chemical preservatives, no biocides or fungicides, no hydrocarbons or any other petroleum derivatives.
Anna Sova Milk Paint - does not contain any crystalline silica, ethylene glycol, toluene, mutagens vinyl acrylics or acrylic copolymers or any ingredients known to cause cancer or birth defects
The shortness of this list is a sad indication of how non-transparent companies are about the ingredients used in their paints. I hope to follow this up with a more in-depth look at these paint companies, but for now a few major toxins to look out for:
Phthalates - A carcinogen and reproductive toxin, phthalates can be absorbed through the skin.
Lead - Considered a probable carcinogen, it has been limited by government regulations but can still be found in limited quantities
Formaldehyde - known allergen and skin irritant, it's also been linked to cancer.
Ethylene Glycol - mentioned above