Why Low VOC Paints Are Better for the Environment and Human Health

As the idea of environmentally sustainable design in homes and buildings takes root, people are also realizing that green buildings are healthier for those who live and work there. That’s because many common household products and building materials contain toxic materials that can be harmful to people and pets. Choosing sustainable building materials, low VOC paints and non-toxic cleaners and household products can reduce the build up of toxins in indoor air. The Health Product Declaration Collaborative or HPDC is one of several organizations promoting transparency in the building industry, especially in regard to the contents used in making building materials.

Why environmentally sustainable design is also better for health
As people become aware of the problem of indoor air pollution, they’re also starting to identify the culprits. These include building materials, paints and varnishes, and and common household cleaners. All of these contain toxic materials like VOCs and other chemicals that can cause health problems. VOCs or volatile organic compounds are components in many kinds of commonly used paints and varnishes.
VOCs may also be present in flooring materials, furnishings, and other common building materials. According to CBC Marketplace, VOC concentrations above the level of 500 ppb can cause health problems like breathing difficulties, rashes, headaches and dizziness for people who have chemical sensitivities.

The problem of indoor air pollution
Indoor air pollution can be a problem for a number of people. Those who are environmentally conscious or have chemical sensitivities, pregnant women, people with respiratory issues, and millennials, among others, are all looking for non toxic, environmentally friendly and low VOC products. In fact, home owners, home buyers, builders, architects, and contractors are all discovering that environmentally sustainable products are also better for human health.
This is confirmed by the results of a study at the TIEQ lab at the Syracuse Center of Excellence, on the impact of VOCs on human activity. Participants who spent six working days in an environmentally-controlled office space had cognitive scores that were 101% higher than scored by those in conventional workspaces. In the controlled atmosphere of the lab, lower VOC levels were maintained at approximately 50 micrograms per cubic meter and 40 cubic feet per minute of outdoor air per person.

Choosing low VOC paint and building materials
People looking for low VOC floor paints, glossy varnish, wall primer, and even deck paint have some alternatives that are clearly labeled by manufacturers. For many building materials, hovered, it can be difficult to determine the ingredients. Organizations like the Health Product Declaration Collaborative or HPDC are helping manufacturers in the building industry to set and meet standards of transparency and reliability in listing the contents of building materials.
HPDC uses a consensus-based, stakeholder process in reporting, disclosure, specification and selection of building products. Members contribute to creating the HPD Open Standard, which is a standard specification with a format and instructions for accurate reporting of product contents. It also contains additional health information regarding products. This allows consumers including home owners, builders, architects, and contractors to make informed choices about building materials.

A number of stakeholders – home owners and buyers, builders, contractors, designers, and architects – are discovering that environmentally friendly and sustainable homes are also healthier for the inhabitants, humans and pets alike. Choices such as low VOC paint and natural and sustainable building products can make such buildings a reality. Organizations like HPDC promote transparency in reporting product contents and ingredients in the building industry, helping consumers to make informed choices.

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