Environmentally and Kid-Safe Wall Paints

To child care directors, facility planners and designers, the most important factor for wall paint to be considered environmentally and child friendly is that is contains a low amount of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in its solvent. The solvent holds the pigment and resin in solution when paint is applied. As the paint dries, the solvent slowly evaporates into the surrounding air. VOCs, such as benzene, formaldehyde and toluene, are added to the solvents to help the paint dry faster. When VOCs evaporate, they contribute to the formation of smog and are responsible for the "new paint smell". Some evidence also suggests that VOCs may be carcinogens. Certainly VOC emissions can play havoc with young children's developing neurological systems. Selecting low VOC paints can bring a major improvement of indoor air quality compared with higher VOC level paints.

Because of the reduction of health related risks for young children, low or no VOC paints can allow facilities to maintain a normal operation while painting is underway. The amount of VOCs a paint can contain is determined by the nature of the paint and its intended use. Green Seal certifies interior flat paints that contain a maximum of 50 grams of VOCs per liter of paint and interior flat paints that contain a maximum of 150 grams of VOCs per liter of paint. In addition to the low-VOC requirements, paints must meet other performance-based criteria such as abrasion resistance, hiding power, and the ability to be washed and scrubbed to be eligible for Green Seal certification.

One of the downsides to high-performance, low-VOC paints is that they usually carry a higher price tag. However, selecting such paints can reduce the number of times a facility needs to be painted over a 20-year span. It is also important to remember that low VOC paints take longer to cure and dry since much of the VOC-containing drying and curing agents are removed