Posts Tagged ‘VOCs’

Planning on Refreshing Your Nursery with a New Coat of Paint? What Paint is Safe, and What’s Not?

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

greenseallogoThe subject of ‘safe’ paint can be pretty daunting. There are so many types of paint available, and so many varying degrees of safety, it’s hard to get to the bottom line. While there’s a lot to know about the subject, one of the most important health concerns is the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs are the solvents used in paint that carry the pigment. As the paint dries, the VOCs evaporate and give off that recognizable new paint smell. But the smell is not just a smell, it’s also an indication that the VOCs are in the air we breathe. VOCs have been linked to asthma attacks, throat and eye irritation, nausea, headaches, and a number of other health problems. Long term exposure can lead to cancer and kidney and liver disease.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regulations about VOCs, many experts think they don’t go far enough. For example, the EPA allows 250 grams of VOCs per liter of paint (g/L) while Green Seal, which evaluates, tests and certifies paint (among other things) as safe, only certifies those paints below 50 g/L.

Some experts believe that even 50 g/L is too high and recommend 15/20 g/L as the limit.

The VOC level is on the label so you can check it out. Your best bet is probably to go with “no VOC” paint – that way you don’t have to worry about which experts are right, you just know you’re protected.

Regardless of the fact that you may want paint that exceeds Green Seal standards regarding VOCs, I would still recommend getting paints that are at least Green Seal certified; many chemicals other than VOCs could still be in the paint and may be hazardous to our health and to the environment. There’s a list of at least a dozen such chemicals that are prohibited by Green Seal.

So, long and short of it, if you get natural pigment/no VOC paints that are also certified by Green Seal (you’ll see it on the label), you’re pretty much covered.

Have fun redecorating!

Cleaning Baby’s Nursery Air with House Plants

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009


Years ago I read a book called “How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office.” The book is very informative. It covers the various factors that contribute to our poor indoor air quality – everything from the 1973 OPEC oil embargo to new materials used for building, furnishings, and so on – and tells us which plants absorb and help neutralize the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being emitted from these materials. It’s very specific – tells you which plants are good for which compounds.

I lost my copy of the book in a move, and am definitely going to get another. The link above goes to if you’re interested in getting one.

What reminded me of this book is that I just read the results of a two-year study conducted by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) on house plants cleaning indoor air. They put each plant in sealed, Plexiglas chambers, injected chemicals into the chambers and monitored the results.

They came up with a list of the top 10 plants most effective in removing formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air. Here they are, with links to all but the most common few:

Of course, you also want to do everything you can to keep the offending substances out of your home in the first place. At Naturepedic, we help you address this with our crib mattresses, which are certified by GREENGUARD so you know they aren’t contributing to the VOCs in your household.

Check out the NASA study, read the book, and load up on the right plants. And make sure your children and the kids in your friends’ and family’s households are protected with Naturepedic toddler and crib mattresses.