What does "Non VOC" products really mean?

Author: Pacific Northwest Inspections Group, LLC   Date: 05-Dec-2013.   Category:   Add to Favorites  It is a world of marketing and fine print. All products contain VOCs and especially paints. It takes a chemical compound to make these products. So as a marketing plan they claim the products are low/non VOC products to a set list of compounds listed by the manufacture. So basically they remove compound "A" and replace it with compound "B" stating our product does not cotain "A" yet "B" can cause the same health issues. We would advise being careful using “non-VOC” products. Just because something is marked “non-VOC” does not mean that no chemicals are getting into your air; it's just a different set of chemical compounds.
Not really Zero VOCs, this label refers to low odor characteristics and a VOC of less than 10 grams per liter for most products. What is safe for the environment is not safe for us. The term "non-toxic" is used here in its broadest sense. With paints and finishes, it's more a matter of degree. Even Zero-VOC formulations contain some small amounts of toxins. Here are three general categories of non-toxic (or low-toxic) paints: Natural Paints, Zero VOC, and Low VOC

Natural Paints and Finishes - These are paints made from natural raw ingredients such as water, plant oils and resins, plant dyes and essential oils; natural minerals such as clay, chalk and talcum; milk casein, natural latex, bees' wax, earth and mineral dyes. Water-based natural paints give off almost no smell. The oil-based natural paints usually have a pleasant fragrance of citrus or essential oils. Allergies and sensitivities to these paints is uncommon. These paints are the safest for your health and for the environment.

Zero VOC - Any paint with VOC's in the range of 5 grams/litre or less can be called "Zero VOC", according to the EPA Reference Test Method 24. Some manufacturers may claim "Zero-VOC's", but these paints may still use colorants, biocides and fungicides with some VOC's. Adding a color tint usually brings the VOC level up to 10 grams/liter, which is still quite low.

Low VOC - Low VOC paints, stains and varnishes use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents. As such, the levels of harmful emissions are lower than solvent-borne surface coatings. These certified coatings also contain no, or very low levels, of heavy metals and formaldehyde. The amount of VOC's varies among different "low-VOC" products, and is listed on the paint can or MSDS. Paints and stains, to meet EPA standards. must not contain VOCs in excess of 200 grams per litre. Varnishes must not contain VOCs in excess of 300 grams per liter. As a general rule, low VOC paints marketed by reputable paint manufacturers usually meet the 50 g/L VOC threshold. Paints with the Green Seal Standard (GS-11) mark are certified lower than 50 g/L (for flat sheen) or 150 g/L (for non-flat sheen). Low VOC paints will still emit an odor until dry. If you are particularly sensitive, make sure the paint you buy contains fewer than 25 grams/liter of VOC's.

VOC Absorbing Paints - these specialty paints contain an active ingredient that absorbs VOCs like formaldehyde. They remain trapped (cannot be removed) within the product indefinitely.

Before you paint your entire home ALWAYS test just one room and give it some cure time to see if the VOC off gassing is an issue for you, we are all affected differently.