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True Colors: Non-toxic Painting

Natural Alternatives
Paint manufacturers start with a chemical product and try to make it healthier. Here’s another approach: why not just start with a natural product? Clay paints or plasters, lime paints or plasters, milk, and silicate paints have been around for hundreds, even thousands of years (think cave paintings), and hold up quite well. They also come in an amazing array of colors, and give texture and character to any room.

These types of paints, which can be found in green building supply stores and online, are a bit different than standard paint. As one of my clients once said of clay paint, “it’s kind of like spreading Devonshire cream on your wall.” Some lines come pre-tinted, so you simply choose from a palette, while others can be tinted to your heart’s desire. You can hire someone to apply the plasters or do it yourself, and the results will amaze you.

The Air in There
Remember that, beyond VOCs, there are other chemicals and airborne hazards in the paint and in the prepping of the room. While you will fare better by choosing the low- or zero-VOC brands, there are a few other health considerations when painting inside. Ventilation is essential, so open windows, and place a fan in the window blowing out, not in. That way the odours are drawn out of the house.

Run a dehumidifier to reduce drying time. If needed, wear a respirator and make sure it has chemical filters. That said, if you do need a respirator, you probably should not be using the paint you’ve chosen in your house. Think about it.

A Last Coat
Look closely at what the paint’s label says, who says it’s zero-VOC and read up on the brand before making a purchase. By making this choice, you are helping the planet, your family and the workers in the factory, all with a can of paint.

See Also: Allergic Living’s Paint Picks.

Stephen Collette is a certified Building Biology Environmental Consultant and owner of the company, Your Healthy House.

First published in Allergic Living magazine.
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