One of the most common questions asked by customers considering the paints I sell is whether or not they smell. The assumption is that if it has no odor, especially with zero VOC paints, then it must be healthy and sustainable. This is a false assumption.
The only thing in the world that should be odorless is pure water. No exception. Nothing else is like water and we should value that truth. The misunderstanding comes from the assumption that zero VOC paints are clean and healthy for your indoor life. In truth, legal use the term Zero VOC (as well as use by the EPA) relates only to ingredients that create air pollution – those organic, inorganic and chemical compounds that when released into the atmosphere create smog. So, while the absence of VOCs in paint certainly improve indoor air quality they don’t guarantee it. Most Zero VOC paints produced by the major manufacturers include ingredients that are toxic to your health and indoor air quality, but don’t fall into the VOC category. Frequently, paint manufacturers ad toxic masking agents to zero VOC paint to hide the mild odor created by other unhealthy ingredients such as acetone, ammonia, crystalline silicate and formaldehyde precursors.
There are only about 7 paints in the US that are both VOC free and healthy for indoor air quality. We carry AFM Safecoat http://www.seacoastgreenovations.com/products/safecoat.aspx and IVY Coatings http://www.seacoastgreenovations.com/products/ivy-coatings.aspx.
What to expect: A healthy, Zero VOC paint will usually have a very mild odor, though significantly less than conventional paints. ( In some cases, the very healthiest paints have a strong odor resulting from the plant oils they use. ) However, because they are VOC free, they don’t off gas so that odor should dissipate about as quickly as the paint dries or cures. If you paint in the morning, expect the odor to be virtually gone by lunch.
As I have blogged before, know the facts, not just the label.