Before You Buy Paint

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Planning to do some painting? If finding paint low in VOCs — volatile organic compounds — is important to you, remember you need to look for low-VOC or VOC-free base paint and colorant. When stores make different colors, the tints they add may be high in VOCs, even if the base paint isn’t.

What’s Low-VOC Paint?

If you want to spruce up a room, give your house a new look, or do some remodeling, and your plans include a paint job, you may have seen labels for low-VOC or VOC-free paint.

Why would you want to think about VOCs? VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, found in paint and other materials, are emitted as gases. Not only might they cause smog by contributing to ground-level ozone formation, but they also may have negative effects on your health.

Is That Color Low-VOC?

You’ve flipped through a million paint chips and finally picked the color you want. But if VOCs played a part in your paint choice, it’s important to know that stores will make that color by adding colorants to a base paint. And while the base paint may be low-VOC or VOC-free, the colorant may be anything but. In fact, tinting can significantly increase the VOC level of a paint, depending on the color choice.

The bottom line: if you want low-VOC paint, look for low-VOC base paint and low-VOC colorant. For more on minimizing the impact of VOCs during remodeling, visit the EPA website.