Friday, 4 March 2011

Will Lead Kill Bob The Builder? - Part II of II

Dear visitors, I am so proud as by the time I was just finishing this awaited post I could count 998
visits to my blog. For such a specific science blog I couldn't be happier. It means I am definitely going in the right direction and enticing the right people. You made this number, you deserve my most sincere "Thank You".

Now, back to the main road, non-toxic paints and finishes. The benefits of using non-toxic paints are associated not only with a more protected environment, but also with less chemical sensitivity and less proneness to allergies from users. So basically everyone benefits from it, the surroundings as well as the individual. Since these paints are water-based, one can just wash it of whenever a change is to be brought into the equation. Women will definitely thrive on this very useful property - men have no more excuses but to paint the garage fresh!!! For tenants and landlords this class of paints are a must; no off-gassing and low odour during application make it an essential product for those in the house hunting market. And you can use them with the same confidence you use any other paint because regardless of their non-toxicity, they are still very effective as the traditionally used paints. 

Non-toxic paints is more of a simple name given to paint formulations with a level of toxicity of approximately zero. There are three main types you can find in the market, as far as I'm aware:

a) Natural Paints and Finishes:

Ingredients -  natural raw ingredients, such as latex, bees' wax, plant dyes, mineral dyes, water, plant oils and resins, natural minerals (e.g., clay), chalk, talcum dust, milk casein [1].

Water-based natural paints - rarely release any smell.

Oil-based natural paints - usually have a natural fragrance, what is expected since volatile organic compounds (vocs) are usually essential oils of biogenic nature that plants use as part of their defense system againts many predators, or simply as communication signals for adapting to the environmental conditions after attack  from biotic/abiotic stressors [2], and have been used in perfumes since "ever".

Side effects - allergies to these substances are uncommon [1], therefore these solutions do not put your health at risk as these are the most ecofriendly paints the market has to offer so far.

b) Compositions with "zero" volatile organic compounds (vocs comprise ≤ 5g/L [3], but be aware that a few manufacturers claim that their product is a "Zero" voc paint, but sometimes they use colorants, fungicides and biocides that do have some vocs in their composition [1]. 

c) Compositions with low volatile organic compounds - Since these use water as the carrier, rather than traditional petroleum, the harmfulness is a lot lower. Several manufacturers have their own range of products deriving in nature, from company to company, "as a general rule, low voc paints... usually meet the 50g/L VOC threshold" [1]. Bare in mind that these paints will release smell until drying off, it is advised by [1] that you buy a solution containing ≤ 25 g/L vocs.

Ingredients - contain very low levels of heavy metals, formaldehydes, which are both associated to several types of cancer in humans.

And for when you want to get rid of old coatings, but still wish to avoid using something as dangerous as ethylene chloride (a likely carcinogen with a strong smell resembling chloroform), you can actually go for something new in the market. I am talking about a non-toxic paint stripper based on N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) (this solvent does not burn or melt the pain, it does supposedly soften the downside but take longer to work) [4]. "NMP is a non-corrosive high boiler with excellent solvent power and chemical resistance. Thus, NMP improves the properties of many surface coating systems. In particular, these effects are favorable for baked coatings that are cured at relatively high temperatures. NMP allows the production of highly filled paints and finishes. Since it improves the rheological properties, paints with superior flow-out and covering power are obtained. Hence, the coatings are more homogeneous, non-porous and non-cratering, and they display greater resistance to chemicals and higher mechanical strength" [4].

Now, let's get more practical and less theoretical... What types of paints and finishes are there in the market to serve our needs? Well, the best answer is MANY! Hereby you can find a very microscopic list based on  numerous products I found available on the web [5], but I am sure if you ask a professional he will be more than happy to suggest you the best he's tried so far. These were chosen randomly and I can assure you I am not contracted to any of these companies:

Natural Paints and Finishes: 

Aglaia ( - plant-based paint, available through the UK but not distributed in the US.

Anna Sova (  - natural paints obtained from milk casein, titanium dioxide and food-grade ingredients; free-shipping in the US. 

Zero-VOC paints:

EarthSafePaints ( -a line of zero and low-voc craft/marine paints and finishes;

Mythic Paints ( - interior and exterior paints and primers.

Low-VOC Paints: 

OIKOS Paints ( - Solvent-free interior and exterior paints.

Timber Ox Green ( - Low Voc preservatives and wood stain, vegetable oil based.

Thanks once again for helping me help make science even more fantastic. It is with great pleasure that The Toxicologist Today attempted to paint a healthy smile on your face! See you soon, hopefully!

[1] - docstoc - documents for small businesses and professionals - Shaker painting, non-toxic paints,, last updated on the 16th f April, 2010; last visited on the 04th of March, 2011. 

[2] - Holopainen, J. K., Gershenzon, J., (2010). Multiple stress factors and the emission of plant VOCs, Trends in Plant Science, 15(3), pp.176 -184.

[3] - US Environmental Protection Agency - Method 24 - Surface coatings,, last updated on the 19th of March, 2008; last visited on the 04 of March, 2011.

[4] - BASF diols - N-methylpyrrolidone,, last update unknown, last visited on the 04th of March, 2011.

[5] - Eartheasy - solutions fort sustainable living - non-toxic paints,, last update unknown, last visited on the 04th of March, 2011.

The first image added to this post was taken from AbbeyK, on interior design - A review on the no-voc paints of the NYT,, last updated on the 15th of February, 2010; last visited on the 04th of March, 2011.

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