Time to Paint? Think Greener, Safer Choices.

With an increasing emphasis on preserving the earth, more people than are ever are going green, and paint and stain companies are stepping up to the plate with greener choices. Shop for eco-friendlier paint and stain, and you’ll find endless choices, some of them better than others. If you are thinking about painting or staining something in your home and want to go green, here are some tips.

Know the culprits. Traditional paint contains a lot of toxic chemicals, most notably volatile organic compounds or VOCs. VOCs pollute the air and can cause nausea, dizziness, eye irritation, cancer and heart, lung and kidney damage. Traditional paint also contains fungicides and biocides, air pollutants that prevent mildew growth and extend the life of the paint. Traditional paint contains chemical pigments as well, another air pollutant. Traditional stain contains even more air pollutants than paint.

When shopping for paint and stain, pay attention to the labels. Obviously the less VOCs, fungicides, biocides and chemical pigments the product has, the better. The greenest choices in paint offer low VOCs, low fungicides and biocides and natural pigments. The greenest choices in stain are water based with no biocides or added dryers.

Exterior paint generally contains more air pollutants than interior paint. All exterior paint contains fungicides to prevent mildew growth and biocides to extend the shelf life. While you won’t find a low-biocide exterior paint, you can look for one with zinc oxide as the fungicide and low VOCs.

Interior paint offers better greener options. Natural paints made from balsam, citrus, minerals and other sources are ideal, as is milk paint made from casein and lime. Latex paint featuring low biocides and low VOCs is also a good choice. Acrylic paint and recycled latex paint will also suffice, providing they have no mercury or lead. You can also make your own eco-friendly paint and stain. There are dozens of recipes online you can follow. The worst, and potentially the most dangerous, paint and stain are oil or solvent based. Avoid these when at all possible.

Greener choices in paint and stain are available. Do your homework, and no matter what you select, make sure the area where you are working is well ventilated. And when it’s time to discard any leftover paint or stain, do so properly. Donate it or take it to a hazardous waste collection facility. Don’t dump it in the trash, where it will make its way to the landfill and possibly pollute the groundwater.

By Tresa Erickson MultiAd

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