OUR GUIDE TO ZERO VOC PAINT: VOCs, EMISSIONS, TESTING & CERTIFICATIONS, INGREDIENTS, AND MARKETING CLAIMS.
We know that there is a lot of confusion around the terms “low VOC” and “zero VOC” paints. We work everyday to provide as much information as we can about this topic so you can make an informed choice about the paint products you are purchasing for your home. Read on for our answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.
Q: What is a VOC?
VOC is short for volatile organic compound. In plain terms, these are chemical liquids that evaporate at room temperature, and have measurable negative effects on human health. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has identified paints to be a major contributor to VOCs inside our homes and in the environment. Walls and ceilings are roughly 70% of your interior. For more information on indoor air quality go to www.epa.gov/iaq.
Q: Is Colorhouse Inspired paint “zero VOC”?
Until recently, based on EPA standards, it was generally understood in the paint industry that paints containing less than 5g/L of VOCs could be labeled “zero VOC”. Because Colorhouse is committed to being as transparent as possible with our consumers, we have chosen to make the maximum VOC content information on our label more visible. We are eliminating claims regarding “zero” or “no” VOCs, as this language can be confusing. Our VOC statement educates our customer about the standardized test we use to determine our VOC content, and informs our customer that colorants can add VOCs to our paint.
Our VOC Content Statement:
Maximum VOC Content for Inspired untinted base paint and primer: 3 g/L (as determined by ASTM Test Method D 6886). The VOC content may increase after tinting.
Q: Are any paints considered zero VOC anymore?
The paint industry is changing the way we talk about VOCs. In the past, purchasing a paint labeled “zero VOC” was the gold standard, but not anymore.
According to the EPA, “EPA formerly defined the regulated organic compounds in outdoor air as ‘Reactive Organic Gases’ (ROG). This terminology clarified its meaning as being limited to reactive chemicals. However, EPA later changed that terminology to ‘VOC’. Unfortunately, the use of the term ‘VOC’ rather than ROG has created a misunderstanding when applied to indoor air quality. Many individuals and organizations, including manufacturers of building materials and products, and third party certification organizations have come to think of VOCs as ‘only those regulated by EPA for outdoor air’, and apply the same definition for indoor air purposes…” (See https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/technical-overview-volatile-organic-compounds). “However, the emphasis of that concern outdoors is different from indoors. The main concern indoors is the potential for VOCs to adversely impact the health of people that are exposed. While VOCs can also be a health concern outdoors, EPA regulates VOCs outdoors mainly because of their ability to create photochemical smog under certain conditions.” (See https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/technical-overview-volatile-organic-compounds).
The paint industry is now attempting to clear up this misunderstanding by more clearly labeling how VOCs affect indoor air quality. Colorhouse is doing this by eliminating unqualified claims regarding VOCs and instead issuing a VOC Content Statement and an Emissions Statement.
When purchasing paint that might be labeled as “zero VOC,” it is important to note how the paint company is calculating VOCs and how they are measuring emissions. See the TESTING and CERTIFICATION section below for more information on this topic.
Q: Do colorants add VOCs?
Colorants can add VOCs to base paint. The colorant system used can vary from retailer to retailer. At Colorhouse, we use the COLORTREND 808 colorant system for all online paint orders.
This colorant system is labeled as low VOC by its manufacturer. We can provide you with the Safety Data Sheets for COLORTREND 808 upon request. As Colorhouse does not manufacture these colorants, we may not be able to answer specific ingredient questions regarding colorants. For specific questions that we cannot answer, we can assist you by providing the contact information for the manufacturer.
If you are purchasing Colorhouse Inspired paint from a retail location, the retailer will be able to answer questions about the type of colorant system they use to tint Colorhouse paint.
Q: How many VOCs do colorants add?
This question does not have a “one answer fits all” response, as it depends on the color. In general, lighter colors require less colorant and therefore tend to have lower VOC levels than darker colors, which require more colorant. For example, our most popular off-white BISQUE .02 has only a few drops of added colorant. The maximum amount of colorant that our paint can hold is 14 ounces. If you have strong concerns regarding colorant, we recommend choosing Colorhouse white IMAGINE .01, which contains no added colorant.
Q: Does zero VOC mean zero Emissions?
No. We use two different standardized tests to measure VOC content (what goes into our paint) and VOC emissions (what comes off of our paint when drying). Colorhouse has a separate emissions statement that is based on California CDPH Standard Method Section 01350.
VOC Emissions Statement:
Our Inspired untinted base paints and primers have zero VOC emissions 14 days after application in a non-residential setting, based on California CDPH Standard Method Section 01350, the most popular US standard for evaluating and restricting VOC emissions for indoor air. VOC emissions may increase after tinting.
TESTING and CERTIFICATION
Q: How do paint companies measure VOCs and Emissions?
Measuring VOC Content
There are a few ways to measure VOC content. Two of the most popular 3rd party tests in the paint industry are:
EPA Test Method 24
Unfortunately, this test method (although the “official” method) is widely recognized as being unreliable for waterborne coatings with VOC contents below 100 g/L.
ASTM D 6886
This test method is far more accurate than EPA Test Method 24 – so accurate, in fact, that it can detect residual trace amounts of VOC in all “Zero VOC” paints. Trace amounts of VOC can enter into products through tap water or the air.
Colorhouse is one of the few paint companies using the ASTM D 6886 test method to determine VOC content. Our maximum VOC Content for Inspired untinted base paint and primer is 3 g/L (as determined by ASTM Test Method D 6886).
The most popular US standard for evaluating and restricting VOC emissions for indoor air is CDPH Standard Method V1.1 (CA Section 01350). The standard requires:
• Conditioning of test specimens for 10 days immediately followed by a 96-hour small-scale chamber test
• Air sample collection for VOCs and aldehydes at 24, 48 and 96 hr during chamber test
• Identification and quantitative analysis of VOCs emitted to air by the product with emphasis on VOCs of concern
• Modeling of VOC analysis results to predict concentrations in a standard building scenario (office or school classroom)
• Assessment of modeled concentrations relative to chronic health guidelines
According to CDPH Standard Method V1.1 (CA Section 03150), Colorhouse Inspired untinted base paints and primers have zero VOC emissions 14 days after application in a non-residential setting. VOC emissions may increase after tinting.
Q: What is Green Wise® certification?
Colorhouse Inspired paints are Green Wise® certified.
Products bearing the Green Wise label have been tested and certified by Coatings Research Group, Incorporated (CRGI) to meet environmentally determined performance standards established by CRGI’s ISO-accredited facility for specific product types and to meet or exceed the VOC requirements of LEED® for most applications. Green Wise certified products do not contain certain chemicals which have been determined to be harmful to humans or our environment.
To achieve Green Wise certification, the following chemical compounds may not be used as ingredients in the manufacture of the listed product: methylene chloride, 1,2 dichlorobenzene, phthalates, isophorone, formaldehyde, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, and the following heavy metals: antimony, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, and mercury.
CRGI is an international organization of paint manufacturers, staffed with degreed chemists, and recognized the world over for its high quality technical work and scientific reporting. The CRGI laboratory is ISO 17025 accredited by Laboratory Accreditation Bureau.
INGREDIENTS and MARKETING CLAIMS
Q: What are the ingredients in Colorhouse paint?
Ingredient amounts vary from base to base. The primary ingredients in Colorhouse Inspired paint are: water, acrylic polymer, titanium dioxide, kaolin clay, amorphous silica, and limestone. Please view our Product Data Sheets for the breakdown of ingredients by sheen.
Q: Does your paint contain…?
Colorhouse Inspired untinted base paints are Green Wise® Certified. As part of that certification, these compounds are prohibited and are not used as ingredients in the manufacture of our base paints: methylene chloride, 1,2 dichlorobenzene, phthalates, isophorone, formaldehyde, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, and the following heavy metals: antimony, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, and mercury. (See www.greenwisepaint.com/performance-standards).
If you have a specific question regarding the ingredients in our paints, please contact us.
Q: Is your paint non-toxic?
Colorhouse Inspired paint is a water-based, 100% acrylic paint.
We steer away from using the term “non toxic” because there is not a clear definition of what that term means.
Q: Is your paint organic?
There is not a standardized definition or certification program for organic paints in the United States, so we do not use this term.
Questions to ask manufacturers as you research “zero VOC” paints:
1. What is the maximum VOC content of your base paint?
2. What tests do you use to calculate the VOC content?
3. Are VOCs added when tinting?
4. What emissions testing do you do? Do you have an emissions statement?
5. Do your paints carry any 3rd party certifications?