Girl Planting seeds

Healthier Paint

By Erin S. Ihde, MA


The world is full of hundreds of kinds of paints, most of which contain carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, respiratory irritants and other chemicals that have no place in our homes.  Many brands claim to be healthier, “green” or make low or no-VOC claims, but still contain toxic chemicals.  What to do?

For my current renovation, I’ve made numerous treks to Green Depot in NYC, purveyor of healthy building products. With locations across the country and shipping available, their accessibility makes shopping that much easier.  DwellSmart is another resource for paint, building supplies and more.

Ivy Coatings is Green Depot’s “store brand” paint, which makes it a budget-friendly choice among the healthiest options on the market, which also include Mythic and AFM Safecoat, both excellent choices but pricier.  A budget-friendly tip is to look for these brands on the store’s “oops paint” table for colors that didn’t turn out just right.  It’s a great way to keep mismatched paint out of the landfill and put it to good use.  Keep in mind that these healthier brands aren’t available in “primer plus paint” versions like some big brands, so a separate primer may be necessary.

Ivy Coatings is priced comparably to mainstream, well-known premium paints.  Keep in mind that many brands advertise as being zero-VOC, but this claim is no longer valid because once the colorant or tint is added, the paint is no longer true zero-VOC.  In other words, the base paint without color meets zero-VOC guidelines, but the end product doesn’t measure up.  VOCs aside, any green claim doesn’t necessarily mean the product is all-around healthy.  It can still contain formaldehyde or other chemicals including glycol ethers (“glymes” for short), which the EPA links to reproductive and developmental problems.

As with any purchase, understanding labels is key.  Product ingredient and health information is available on the product’s MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet).  Look for the MSDS for each paint formula right on the manufacturer’s website.

Any home built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint.  Before starting any project where lead-based paint may be disturbed, read and follow the EPA’s lead-safe guidelines.  When the project is done, save enough paint for touchups and consider recycling the rest with, or donating it to a local non-profit or school group.  Then relax and enjoy your new space!



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