eco-friendly-painting-guideWhat’s On Your Walls?


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Your Eco Friendly Painting Resource Guide


Presented By Paintworks


Chapter 1 - History Of Eco-Friendly Paint

Chapter 2 - Paint and its Environmental Impact

Chapter 3 - Paint in Your Healthy Home

Chapter 4 - You Can Have Any Colour You Want – As Long As It’s “Green”

Chapter 5 - Eco-Friendly Accessories


Many people around the world are becoming more eco-friendly conscious. They are seeking (and finding) ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Some people have increased their use of mass transit when commuting or ride bicycles to work and shopping. Others have purchased hybrid or other fuel-efficient cars. Still others are using, or planning to use, eco-friendly paints for the interior and exterior of their houses.


This resource guide is designed to share with you some of the history of eco-friendly paint as well as paint’s impact on health and the environment. The final chapters will present information on eco-friendly brands and accessories.


This first chapter is about the history of eco-friendly paint.


Chapter 1 - History Of Eco-Friendly Paint


A consumer and industry shift has been occurring over the past decade. Early eco-friendly paints were considered by many as trendy; today, they are becoming the paint products of choice. This shift reflects peoples’ increasing “green” commitment as well as advances in technology advances to develop paints that reduce or eliminate volatile organic compounds (VOC).


Humans have been painting the walls of their shelters for thousands of years so before we explore what is happening in the evolution of eco-friendly paint, let’s take a few moments to look some significant points in the evolution of house painting.


100,000 years of paint


Imagine the power of paint colours to withstand thousands years of environmental shifts. Archaeologists have discovered a human-made substance in South Africa believed to have been used as paint; the mixture is estimated to be about 100,000 years old and consists of a yellow-brown clay/soil-based “coating”.


Paintings made by early Homo sapiens 40,000 years ago still clearly show the red and yellow materials they used to decorate the walls of their caves. Those early artists and historians mixed animal blood and fatty oils with other materials like fire soot, coloured earth, iron oxides, berry juice, and organic matter to create their pigments.


Anyone who has had an opportunity to see one of the travelling art exhibitions of the artefacts from King Tut’s tomb cannot help but marvel at the vividness of colour that has survived since approximately 1323 BC. Artisans hand mixed such materials as oil, fat, lead, earth, ground glass, semiprecious stones, and animal blood to create six basic colours (white, red, yellow, blue, black, and green). With those six deep-hued colours, the Egyptians told the stories of their civilisation on the walls of living spaces, temples, and tombs.


Plato (427 – 347 BC) is credited with discovering that mixing two colours together could produce a third colour.


The house painter’s trade may have developed earlier than the 1200’s but there is little written information about the house painting industry prior to the advent of the Gutenberg press in 1440. At some point in the 1400s, European house painters began organizing themselves into guilds. This move helped establish house painting as a respectable trade and a means for setting painting standards that guild members were committed to uphold. Painters’ “recipes” were closely guarded as insurance for protecting their livelihood.


An important change in 15th century paints was the discovery that adding drying oils to paint would increase evaporation. The new solvent for this drying process was linseed oil; linseed oil would remain the primary solvent in paints until it was replaced by synthetics in the 20th century.


House painting may have fared poorly in some areas of colonial America for a time. Early Pilgrim settlers considered painting one’s house immoral – a display of vanity. This movement apparently was fairly short lived and both interior and exterior painting survived in colonial settlements.


Colonials’ paints were derived from many materials including lead, ground shells, minerals like iron and copper oxide, and vegetarian sources such as fruits, berries, coffee, and rice. The diversity of colours enabled painters to decorate homes with elaborate murals and sometimes vivid hues for wall paints. The paints were often thick and difficult to apply.


Better living through technology


Marshall Smith invented the “Machine for the Grinding of Colours” in 1718. This was one of the first significant innovations in effectively grinding pigment materials and the manufacture of paint in paint mills.


Sherwin-Williams became the first company to produce paint on a ready-to-use level in 1866. Henry Sherwin would later develop the re-sealable tin can.


Pantone developed the first colour matching system in 1963. Jump forward to the later 20th century when Benjamin Moor became the first paint company to design a computer-based colour- matching system.


The shift from traditional to green paints and stains


The dangers of exposure to lead paint have been known for more than 40 years. Lead has long been one of the ingredients in paint, valued for its ability to speed the drying process, increase paint’s durability and moisture resistance, and to help paint appear fresh-looking for a longer time.


And it isn’t just lead content that is a safety problem. Latex paints contained coalescent solvents and glycol (one of the toxic products in antifreeze and certain now-banned plastics). Removing ingredients like lead and petrochemicals from the paint significantly slowed the “cure” or drying time.


Early generation low-VOC paints were introduced in the late 1990s. Although the new products were indeed lower in VOCs, they proved to be problematic in terms of performance –increased difficulty in application and touch-up, and poor flow and levelling (the failure of paint to dry to a smooth film makes it easy to see all the brush and roller marks once paint has dried).


Paint manufacturers searched for alternative materials to replace the more toxic solvents that had been removed but early results also were disappointing. Without the traditional ingredients, first-generation green paints dried too fast, were harder to handle than latex and alkyd products, did not leave a smooth finish, and touch ups were difficult.


Painters discovered that these green paints produced heavy brush drag, slowed drying, and delayed work schedules. Pressure from environmental groups, government mandates, painters and customers forced paint developers to resume product testing and development to improve their paint products.


The next low-VOC products would have to meet regulations and perform satisfactorily as well. New green paint products are considered to be at the same level of performance as traditional solvent-based primers and paints. Green paints are increasingly used in commercial and residential interiors and are particularly favoured for their low odour emissions.


Exterior coating products have been less successful, performing less effectively in extreme cold climates without the anti-freezing agents formerly used in exterior paint formulas. Low- and no-VOC paints still are not well-suited to industrial environments; they cannot withstand exposure to certain chemicals, grease, dirt, etc.


Developers continue to explore and refine low- and no-VOC paints, constantly pushed by government regulations and consumer demand. Manufacturers are assessing and redeveloping all product lines, striving to produce improved, environmentally safer products.


In Chapter 2, we will explore the environmental impact of paint.


Chapter 2 - Paint and its Environmental Impact


This chapter is about the impact paint has on the environment. You will also learn more about VOCs and what some of the toxic constituents of paints are.


What’s in your paint and on your walls?


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are toxic chemicals or gases released into the environment (air and water) by both solvent- and water-based paints.


VOCs are also compounds added to enhance paint performance including the drying process, how easily paint can be applied, how well it covers the painted surface, and how it withstands wear and tear.


Paints, no matter their VOC level, contain some basic compounds:


• Pigment –granular solids incorporated into the paint to provide colour; they can be either natural or synthetic materials.


Natural pigments include some clays, mica, silicas, talcs, and calcium carbonate. Synthetic pigments include engineered molecules, calcined (moisture reduced) clays, blanc fixe, synthetic pyrogenic silicas, etc. Titanium dioxide, phthalo blue, red iron oxide, and other hiding pigments (pigments that make paint opaque), work to protect a building’s substrate (the natural stone or masonry surface) from UV ray damage.

    • Filler – also a granular solid that affects paint texture and durability and even the cost of paint.
  • Binder/resin/film former – the film-forming component of paint; it must be present as it provides the adhesion and affects the appearance in terms of gloss and durability.
  • Solvent/diluent – helps in the application process. Solvent is used to adjust the viscosity of paint. It is essential because it establishes the paint’s consistency for application.
  • Dryer – facilitates efficient drying time of the paint.
  • Additives – compounds that may be included to modify surface tension, improve finished appearance and stabilise pigment, provide antifreeze properties, fight bacterial growth, function as UV stabilizers, etc.

In addition, vinyl and acrylic paints will include plastics compounds. Formaldehyde, arsenic, thinners, and foamers may also be added to some paint formulations.


Traditional paints are often classified into two general categories:

  • Oil-based – includes alkyd, a modified polyester used in paint as a binder or dominant resin. Oil-based paints use linseed oil, petroleum distillate, alcohols, ketones, esters, glycol ethers as the solvent carrier.These components are the volatile compounds (VOCs) that are emitted as paint is being applied and as it dries.
  • Water-based – (commonly called latex paints), these are a lower VOC alternative to solvent-based paints.

VOCs and the environment


Perhaps the greatest ongoing concern is the damage caused by VOCs to the ozone layer. Before elaborating on that problem, it may help to know a bit about the two ozone layers. Like cholesterol, there is a “good” ozone layer and a “bad” ozone layer.


The good ozone layer is a natural occurrence. The good ozone layer is located in the stratosphere between 6 and 31 miles above the ground. It serves to protect the earth’s surface, animals, and plants from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays.


Bad ozone is a lower-atmosphere (troposphere or ground-level) layer caused, in part, by the chemical reactions between VOCs, sunlight, and oxygen. This bad ozone is described as a “photochemical oxidant.” It is a primary contributor to the development of smog. It irritates and damages delicate mucous tissues, vegetation, and corrodes man-made materials. For example, bad ozone is what accelerates the deterioration of some paints.


While motor vehicles and industry are considered the largest producers of VOCs, “architectural coatings” – paint – is believed to contribute as much as 9 percent of VOC emissions generated by consumer and commercial products. The American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists paint as one of the top 5 most hazardous substances.


Environmental damage from VOCs happens in several ways:

  • Off-gassing/out-gassing – the release of chemicals from substances including solvents, paints, plastics. With paint, the off-gassing process is continuous, starting when paint is applied to surfaces and continuing long after the paint has dried.
  • Groundwater contamination can occur through careless industrial practices and improper disposal of chemicals. (Ironically, it used to be common for leftover paints, solvents, cleaning fluids, and thinners to be poured down the storm drain or sink.)
  • Plant damage occurs when ozone enters the leaves through normal gas exchange. The symptoms of “ozone injury” include chlorosis (in which leaves produce insufficient chlorophyll) and necrosis (damage, i.e., cellular death of stem, root tips, and leaf edges). Seasonal ozone damage can severely impact crop yields, especially in particularly susceptible crops like soybeans, cotton, peanuts, sorghum, field corn, and winter wheat.

Reducing VOC emissions


Here are some basic steps homeowners can take to reduce paint-related VOC emissions:

    • Assess need. Is painting really necessary or will a cleaning be sufficient to refresh appearances inside or out?
    • Measure carefully to calculate the quantity of paint needed and purchase only the amount to be used.
    • Select low/no-VOC paints. Carefully read the labels on all paint products you are considering. Labels alone may not tell the whole story so review the safety data sheets and do online research to learn as much about the products VOC contents before you shop.
    • Properly dispose of all paint (including aerosol paints), containers, solvents, and cleaning fluids. Follow all clean-up directions to ensure that you are not improperly/illegally washing toxic waste down the drain.


In the next chapter, we will look at the impact paints can have on our health.


Chapter 3 - Paint in Your Healthy Home


You may be using the most eco-friendly cleaning products, and vacuuming your floors with a HEPA filtration vacuum. You wear totally natural fabrics and eat organic seasonal foods. Everything you do in your home is intended to maximize the health of your home and you. But if you are shopping for traditional solvent (petrochemical) products for your upcoming house painting job, you are overlooking a major source of indoor pollution – paint.


In previous chapters, you read about VOCs, what they are, and how they negatively impact the environment. Now we’ll look at how paints impact the health of your home, and you.


Paints and your good health


Let’s address some of the effects of paint on your health, first. Whether you accidentally splash some paint on your skin or inhale the fumes (VOCs) it emits, paint can have a negative effect on your health.


Seasonal health risks


For years, various health and news agencies have issued seasonal safety alerts, reminding people with respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other health concerns to limit outdoor activity during periods when the ozone (“bad” ozone) level is high. Such warnings typically occur during warmer months.


Another type of spare-the-air alert is made during winter months when cold temperatures and stagnant air cause particulate from industry, fireplace, and auto emissions to rise. This condition is called a winter inversion – when a “dense layer of cold air is trapped under a layer of warm air” and traps pollutants nearer the ground level; fog exacerbates this inversion. The longer an inversion lasts, the higher the levels of trapped pollutants (including VOCs).


You may wonder why either the summer ozone layer or winter inversion problems might be included in this chapter. Traditional paints (those that are not no- or low-VOC products) emit off-gases into the environment both outside and inside the home. VOC emissions add to the ozone problem and can become part of the trapped particulate. VOCs are all-seasons pollutant opportunists – ready to trigger or exacerbate health problems.


Ozone layer problems – impact on your health

  • One Harvard University study reported that ozone levels as low as .08 parts per million can contribute to pulmonary function deterioration and lung disease in children.
  • EPA studies show that ground-level ozone impacts the lung function of many healthy people.
  • Prolonged ozone exposure may cause permanent damage to lung tissue.
  • Prolonged ozone exposure interferes with immune system functions.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that when paint is being applied, the VOCs it emits are “as much as 1,000 times higher [indoors] than found outdoors.”

Keep in mind that traditional and low -VOC paints, solvents, and stains off-gas into both the exterior and interior environment.


Other health effects of exposure to paint:

  • Headaches, dizziness, nausea.
  • Burning or irritation of eyes, nose, and throat.
  • Contact with skin may cause a rash-like irritation (contact dermatitis).
  • Increased susceptibility to infection.
  • VOCs have been linked to birth defects, cancers, damage to the central nervous system, kidney or liver damage, or respiratory problems.

While some of the above effects are generally of short duration, prolonged exposure increases the risk of developing serious, long-term disabilities.


Health risks to professionals

  • WHO has identified that exposure to paint VOCs places professional decorators at a much higher risk (about 40 percent) for developing lung cancer.
  • WHO also identified professional painters as having a 20 percent likelihood of developing various cancers (especially lung cancer).
  • Researchers in Denmark have identified “painter’s dementia,” a neurological condition caused by long-term exposure to paint solvents.
  • Some studies indicate that men who are regularly exposed to paint chemicals are more likely to have fertility problems.

Reducing risks


Because architectural coatings (house paint) are the leading cause of unhealthy indoor environments, it is important to take all reasonable precautions to reduce exposing residents and the environment to VOC-related pollution.

  • • Lead exposure – between 1978 and 1990, the US and Canadian governments enacted legislation banning the use of lead-based paints for houses, furniture, and toys. If you are planning to strip old paint from wood doors, windows, and trim, take time to have it tested for lead before proceeding.
    If lead content is confirmed, STOP. Any scraping of old paint can release the lead content into the air, exposing you to the toxic content and adding heavy metal particulate to the ozone layer.
    Lead-content paint that has not been disturbed can be painted over with modern paint. This will seal in the lead paint and prevent it from releasing harmful particulate. If the paint must be removed, have it done by professionals who will ensure that it is safely removed and properly disposed of.
    Indoor painting the healthy way
  • Use low- or no-VOC paints whenever possible.
  • READ the labels on all your paint project materials before you buy. Low-VOC paints may still contain other toxic ingredients.

NOTE: Just because a paint product is no- or low-odour doesn’t mean that it has no VOCs – read the labels and safety sheets!

  • Read and follow all directions.
  • Don’t use exterior paints on interior surfaces.
  • Keep windows open and place an exhaust fan in the window to draw the inside air out of the room.
  • Take frequent fresh air breaks.
  • Pregnant women, young children, and people with respiratory challenges or other compromised health conditions should stay away from freshly painted rooms.
  • Keep all paints and hazardous materials out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Ventilate the newly-painted area for 72 hours.
  • Follow all directions for proper disposal of any leftover paints and related materials.

Even the “healthiest” formulas of eco-friendly paints may have some toxic content. However, newer-generation paints pose fewer health and environmental risks than traditional petrochemical products.


In Chapter 4, we will look at some eco-friendly paint brands and what to look for in low-VOC products.


Chapter 4 - You Can Have Any Colour You Want – As Long As It’s “Green”


For the past three chapters, you have been reading about eco-friendly paints, VOCs, and health and environmental risks. This chapter focuses on what constitutes low- or no-VOC paint and some of the leading eco-friendly brands.


Rating VOC levels


Up to this point in your reading, you may have noticed no mention of exactly what low- or no-VOC ratings mean. The standards (or definitions) of VOCs are different around the world.


In Canada, there are 53 categories of architectural coatings and the concentration limits vary depending on category. The Canadian government is working to adopt VOC regulations that are in alignment with US regulations, particularly California’s stringent regulations.


The current general “standard” in North America for a paint to qualify as low-VOC is that it uses no more than 200 grams’ worth (200 g/L) of VOC material per liquid litre of paint; varnishes must not have more than 300 g/L. A more specific breakdown is:


Low-VOC *Green Seal VOC Level


Interior Flat Topcoat 50 g/L Non-Flat Topcoat 100 g/L Primers, Undercoat 100 g/L Stain 250 g/L Pigmented Lacquer 550 g/L Low-solids Coating 120^ g/L


*Green Seal is an independent non-profit, non-governmental organization headquartered in Washington, DC, USA. Its mission is to use “science-based programs to empower consumers, purchasers and companies to create a more sustainable world.”


Low-VOC Green Seal w/colorant VOC Level Added @ point of sale


Flat Topcoat 100 g/L Non-Flat Topcoat 150 g/L Primers, Undercoat 150 g/L


Although Green Seal does not set international standards for paint, it works with international programs (in part) to establish standards and certification for services and products that produce lower levels of toxic emissions and waste. The Green Seal VOC ratings listed above are generally in line with the evolving standards of Canada and the US and are used as a point of reference for this chapter.


Zero/non-VOC paint standards also vary. For this chapter, the current non-VOC standard of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is used: paint qualifies as a “Zero VOC Paint” if it contains 5 grams of VOC per litre or less. No-VOC paints have fewer chemicals and use different dyes than do low-VOC paints; there also is little-to-no odour after the paint has dried.


No-VOC formulas may be made from natural raw ingredients and can include water, natural latex, plaint oils and resins, milk casein plant dyes, and essential oils. Some important additional points to consider:

  • Even though no-VOC paint may have 5 g/L or less, it may still contain fungicides, biocides, and colorants (tints).
  • Adding tint to a low- or no-VOC paint can also increase the VOC level to as much as 10 g/L. The deeper the colour tone, the higher the VOC level. However, some manufacturers produce no-VOC tints.

Colouring your walls


The American automobile maker, Henry Ford, was oft quoted as saying, “You can have any colour you want, as long as it’s black.” (That is actually a paraphrase of, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”)


There was a time when low-/no-VOC performance was less than adequate and colour options were limited. Newer generation green paints are much easier to apply and maintain, and the colour options are extensive.


Familiar brands with green paint options


Benjamin Moore Pristine EcoSpec Paint: Benjamin Moore has been in the paint business since 1883. Today, the company is committed to sustainability and minimal impact to the environment. These low-VOC, low odour 100% acrylic latex products are available in flat, egg-shell, and semi-gloss formulas. Eco-Spec is a base white that can be mixed with colours (off-whites and neutrals); darker and brighter colours are not available.


Benjamin Moore Pristine Natura® Zero-VOC and Zero Emissions Paint: The manufacturer claims that “Natura goes beyond zero VOC”. It is odourless, 100% acrylic, spatter-resistant, and available in an “unlimited colour selection”.


Sherwin-Williams Harmony: Harmony is a no-VOC acrylic latex paint with anti-microbial ingredients that limit mould and mildew growth.


Behr Premium Plus Ultra: Rated highly by one of the major credible consumer review organisations, low-VOC Premium Plus is available in all 3 finish types.


Newer Brands


YOLO Colorhouse: Colorhouse appears in nearly every write-up of eco-friendly paints. When YOLO was founded 9 years ago it offered 49 shades; they’ve since added 40 new colours. All are carcinogen, VOC, formaldehyde, and phthalate-free. YOLO takes eco-friendly even further: containers and labels are made of 100 percent recycled materials, inks are soy-based, and products are shipped using biodiesel-fuelled vehicles.


Old-Fashioned Milk Paint: Self-proclaimed as “The Greenest Paint There Is”, Old-Fashioned’s ingredients are the same as used in foods and pharmaceuticals and completely biodegradable. The colour selection is limited to 20 tints that can be mixed with white to create shades rather than vivid tones.


Green Planet Paints: These paints are soy-based resins “with clay formulations and mineral pigments” that make GP’s products “as organic as your farmer’s market produce.” Green Planet lists all their paint formula ingredients on the can.


Real Milk Paint: Real Milk Paint ® is a non toxic paint finish made from purified milk protein, lime, natural fillers and pigment. Other paint companies choose to use Kaolin Clay as filler. Real Milk Paint® does not contain Kaolin Clay which can be derived from radioactive clays.


Ecos Organic Paints: Ecos Oraganic Paints offer water based - free from all Solvents, VOCs, pesticides, herbicides and toxins paints.


Handle with care


Eco-friendly paints have steadily improved over the past 20 years and manufacturers keep pushing technology farther. Emissions levels continue to be reduced. Colour choices and product availability increase. And eco-friendly paints are increasingly cost-competitive with traditional solvent paints.


Perhaps only one thing remains the same for all types of paints: they must be handled with care. While some green paint ingredients may be food grade they – and all other paint ingredients – are still chemicals that must be used, stored, and disposed of with care. These are products that should always be kept out of the reach of children and animals. And although they may produce little or no odours, each area being painting should always be well-ventilated.


Our final chapter will be on eco-friendly accessories.


Chapter 5 - Eco-Friendly Accessories


Most of the preceding chapters have been centred on VOC, low- and no-VOC paints. This chapter will introduce you to some additional eco-friendly ideas for your home.


Paint with eco-friendly accessories


Many paint accessories are being developed (and manufactured) with earth friendly materials and contents. Consider that some of the products you use during a painting project also have the potential to emit toxic chemicals, are made of non-sustainable materials, or in other ways adversely impact the environment.


Paint brushes are a simple example of “green potential”. Instead of automatically reaching for the cheapest brushes for your next painting project, take a moment to look at the materials brushes are made of. Bamboo-handled paint brushes are an eco-friendly option. Sturdy, available in different sizes, and made of wood from sustainable resources, bamboo brushes are great partners for your painting needs.


Pencils might not be high on your paint accessories list. But if you are a person who uses pencils to make notes when planning or illustrating your projects, look to eco-friendly pencils to do the doodling/note-taking job. Think bamboo, again.


Pre-painting cleaning


If one of your new paint projects is the kitchen, there may be an area that will need some pre-painting cleaning. Grease and food splatters on kitchen walls sometimes require the use of products with greater cleaning strength than soap and water.


Expand your search beyond the shelves of your nearest grocery store. Newer eco-friendly cleaning products are available, made of agriculturally-derived ingredients like soybeans. These powerful cleaners are made from biodegradable plant materials and are non-toxic, non-abrasive, free of caustic fumes, and rinse off with water. Check out your local paint supplies stores and do some online research for content and safety information and product availability.


Brushes used with most low- and no-VOC paints can usually be cleaned up with soap and water but effective clean-up usually must happen shortly after painting is done for the day. When a brush is overlooked and dries with caked on paint, look for biodegradable-formula non-toxic cleaners. These newer cleaners are designed to clean as well as restore synthetic and natural hair paint brushes. Some biodegradable cleaners are available in concentrated form and are formulated to mix with water.


Paint products for the resident artist


The next time the resident artist of your house needs canvas, brushes, paints, cleaners, and even studio furniture, ask the art supplies staff for guidance on selecting eco-friendly products.


The Italian physician, Bernardino Ramazzini, was among the first to document (in 1713) the occupational dangers associated with painting. Toxic properties have been in artists’ paints for centuries. However, an increasing number of art-related products are being developed or reformulated to meet 21st century safety and emissions regulations.


In addition to less-toxic paints, crayons and cleaning agents, artists can also choose more eco-friendly canvases, easels, brushes, sketchbooks, papers, and other supplies. Many of these products contain low-VOCs, are made of sustainable materials, and manufactured with more ecologically sound processes.


Other emissions in your home environment


Let’s say that you have just painted the interior of your home with no-VOC paints. You also refreshed your home’s flooring with new carpet and hardwoods. Perfumed scent sticks have been strategically placed around the house; candles are burning to softly light the room and add to the mood of satisfaction and relaxation. Everything looks and feels beautiful.


While you are enjoying the beauty of your refreshed home, have you considered the emissions filling the rooms and joining the ozone layer?


It seems cruel to mention the toxic potential but it is an important part of what makes your carbon footprint larger or smaller. For instance, adhesives used in flooring (carpet, tile, and woods) may have medium-to-high VOC levels. Synthetic carpets, padding, flame and stain retardant products can all off-gas toxic materials into your home and the environment


Perfumed potpourris, scent sticks, and other air fresheners are another source of potential pollutants. And unless you purchased candles made of beeswax, soy, palm, or other natural materials, your candles may also be pollutants, too.


Many candles contain petroleum bi-products, paraffin, and synthetic fragrances. Some air scents and fresheners contain toxic synthetic fragrances. Seem far-fetched? The contents of many popular air freshener products include acetone, benzaldehyde, benzyl alcohol, lead, mercury, ethanol, and more. Those chemicals are known to cause central nervous system disorders, dizziness, nausea, and respiratory irritations.


Protecting yourself and the environment


Just as you were environmentally proactive in choosing low- or no-VOC paints, you can also be more proactive about the products you bring into your house. Before you shop for carpet, upholstery fabrics, cleaning products, and even fireplace logs, consider the emissions potential in each product or item.


It takes a few extra moments of your time to read manufacturers’ labels and fact sheets, and study environmental and consumer product reports. But consider this final point: the American EPA estimates that Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Various reports and studies indicate that indoor pollutant levels may be far higher (sometimes as much as 100 times higher) than outdoor pollutant levels.


Our health and the health of our universe can be protected and improved with each simple step we take to reduce toxic emissions in our home environment.