The environmental and health benefits of low VOC paints

Nick Higgins |   November 11, 2021 at 5:18 PM

The environmental and health benefits of low VOC paints

Sustainable building practices are on the rise as many companies look for solutions that are environmentally and socially responsible - and paint is no exception. Most common building paints emit VOC fumes that can negatively impact people’s health and the environment. Consequently, many building managers are considering the benefits of low VOC paints and other more eco-friendly paint alternatives, especially in settings such as hospitals, aged care and education institutions.

Organisations like the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) are also increasingly establishing greener industry standards to help control the level of VOC solvents that are found in various paints. There are paint options that meet consumer and contractor demands thanks to the development of new technology that allows for quality and performance, but not at the expense of sustainability and health.

What are low VOC paints?

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are carbon-based chemicals which turn into vapours or gases at room temperature. They can be found in household cleaning products and are a common solvent in many paints as they slow down the drying process, giving painters more time to apply the coating correctly. The VOC solvents in paint are released into the air as the paint dries.

In comparison, low-VOC paints contribute to fewer emissions than regular solvent-based paints. Most low-VOC paints are also water-based as opposed to using petroleum or gas solvents, which means they contain lower levels of other chemicals that can be harmful to humans and the environment.

A litre of paint shouldn’t have more than 49g of VOCs in order to meet the low VOC grade. This is particularly critical for people who are sensitive or have allergies and should be a well-considered factor when choosing the right paint for commercial buildings.

The benefits of low VOC paints

By choosing paints with low VOC levels, you can significantly reduce the environmental risks and potentially harmful side effects of painting.

Like all carbon-based gases, VOCs can damage the earth’s ozone layer. More immediately though, they can also impact indoor air quality and lead to a myriad of health issues including respiratory irritation, nausea, headaches, and dizziness.

As such, the benefits of low VOC paints are clear: the lower the VOC level, the better it is for the environment and for human health. As an added bonus, choosing low VOC paints also generally avoids the overwhelming and nasty odours that often come with a fresh coat.

Thanks to a lower carbon footprint, better air quality and reduced health risks, this painting solution makes good business sense for commercial spaces, particularly those with potentially vulnerable individuals. Low VOC paints should be a serious consideration in settings like hospitals, schools, aged care facilities and childcare centres, where the potential health impacts of exposure to VOCs is higher.

Application of low VOC paints

It’s critical that experienced painters handle low VOC paints as they have unique properties that make the application process more complex. Low VOC paints tend to dry faster than high VOC paints, which can give surfaces a rough finish if not applied correctly. That’s why you should always contract skilled painters who understand the different techniques and equipment necessary when dealing with more eco-friendly paint alternatives to ensure a quality finish is achieved.

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Higgins Coatings is Australia's premier commercial painting contractor with over 70 years of experience in providing cost-effective painting and tailored maintenance solutions to a broad range of industries including hospitals, aged care, schools, and strata. If you need quality painting services delivered on time and within budget, contact us today for a consultation.