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Eco Friendly Paints

Last Updated Jul 3, 2012 · Written by Rob Schneider

Australians are striving for a more eco friendly lifestyle. We're looking for chemical-free natural therapies to protect our health; curbing our energy consumption to cut greenhouse emissions; and using biodegradable and renewable resources whenever possible. These environmental and health concerns are behind the current trend amongst home renovators to choose eco friendly paints in preference to conventional paint coatings.

What Are Eco Friendly Paints?

In their purest form, eco friendly paints are coatings that are made from 100 percent natural ingredients. These include plant and clay based colours and natural oils and varnishes. There's nothing new about these paints and protective coatings. Examples of plant and clay paints that are tens of thousands of years old can be found throughout Australia in aboriginal art and the finest antiques were originally sealed and polished with naturally occurring finishes such as shellac and beeswax.

What is new is the turning away from paints and other finishes that contain substances called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The word "organic" in that phrase suggests that these compounds may be eco friendly, but this is not necessarily the case. VOCs are chemical compounds (both man-made and natural) that have a low boiling point and emit gases that can emit high levels of greenhouse emissions and/or have serious long-term health consequences. When you open a can of paint and draw back because of the strong fumes, it is VOC emissions that you smell.

Why Use Eco Friendly Paints?

VOCs are used as paint solvents because they help make paints dry faster. However, they are also the reason why warning labels caution users to apply them only in well-ventilated rooms. Short term health problems associated with VOCs include headaches, dizziness and sometimes nausea. While these symptoms my pass quickly, there is increasing concern that longer term risks include many types of cancer, kidney disease, liver disease and neurological damage (including brain damage). While the strong fumes from VOCs dissipate rapidly as they dry, advocates of eco friendly paints point out that surfaces coated with paint products containing them continue to emit gases for years.

With these dangers in mind, the question becomes, "Why not use eco friendly paints?" In some cases, such as automobile paints, there is really no viable option, because VOC solvents are necessary to achieve a hard, shiny, resilient coating. In house paints, completely VOC-free paints may limit your choices. Many consumers are compromising by using low-VOC paints. Low-VOC paints are becoming so popular, in fact, that manufacturers are boldly advertising their ranges of low-VOC products and paint suppliers that specialise in low-VOC and VOC-free paints are springing up throughout Australia.

Now that you know what eco friendly paints are and why you should consider using them, it's time to go to your local interior paint supplier and see what they have to offer. You will be pleasantly surprised to discover that you can have the colour and quality of paint you desire without risking your family's health or damaging the environment.
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