Healthy Home. Healthy Walls.
When we want to breathe new life into our home, often our first idea is to change the color of our walls. And without thinking much more about it, we run to the store to buy paint.
But we need to think more about it… As mindful consumers, we try to choose products that are both healthy for us and safe for the environment, so we need to be aware that paint is usually bad for both. By painting our walls, we end up sucking life out of our home instead of breathing new life into it.
How bad is paint? From a health perspective most paints contain harmful off-gassing chemicals called VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). Exposure to VOC’s in paint can trigger asthma attacks, eye irritation, respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness and other symptoms. Prolonged exposure has been linked to kidney and liver disease, even cancer. Most people assume that the off-gassing from paint lasts just a few days, but research shows that 50% occurs over the first year after application, and the rest over time. This means its impact is long term.
There are long-term effects for the environment as well. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that VOC’s in paint are responsible for a whopping nine percent of the pollutants creating ground level ozone (or “bad ozone”). Paint also requires a huge amount of energy to manufacture, bring to market and dispose of, and it takes eons to decompose, making it a very unsustainable product.
So what to do? Let’s explore three solutions:
Clay plaster is nature’s alternative to paint – it is one of the healthiest, cleanest and most environmentally friendly building materials available. Clay contains no chemicals or harmful toxins–just pure clays–recycled aggregates and natural pigments from the earth that when combined, will actually improve the quality of your indoor air. Best of all, it is beautiful, really beautiful. With clay walls you won’t just get new color, you’ll get a whole new feel. Available in many rich textures and colors, clay walls impart a tangible beauty, uncommon warmth, and longevity to environments of any style. Visit our gallery to see for yourself.
But how does clay plaster improve air quality? First, clay is non-toxic, hypo-allergenic and dust free, making it ideal for those with chemical sensitivities; it even has the ability to absorb toxins from other materials and it binds odor, such as cigarette smoke, decreasing levels of indoor pollution. Second, clay is porous, allowing a building structure to breathe and resisting the build up of mold. And third, and probably the coolest, clay walls release negative ions into the air – the invisible molecules found in natural settings that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy. Learn more on our “benefits for you” page.
Paints made with natural ingredients.
There are several companies that make non-toxic paints from raw natural ingredients such as linseed, citrus, soy oils, minerals, plant pigments, lime, chalk and milk. Allergies and sensitivities to these paints are uncommon and if choosing paint, these are the safest for your health and for the environment. When shopping for alternative paints, make sure to investigate them in detail before you purchase for three reasons: 1) some natural ingredients still off-gas a little; 2) some have limited usage inside the house and can’t be used in humid areas; and 3) since the manufacturing process is different, they may require a different process for installation than we are used to with regular paint.
Some of our favorite natural paints are:
BioShield made from clay (www.bioshieldpaint.com)
SafePaint made from milk (www.milkpaint.com)
Anna Sova made from milk casein, titanium dioxide and food-grade ingredients (www.annasova.com)
Green Planet Paints made from plants and minerals (www.greenplanetpaints.com)
Low or no VOC paint.
Be very conscious when choosing low or no-VOC latex paints. This is America and since we don’t mandate honesty in labels, many paints labeled as odor-free or containing no or low VOC’s are misleading. For example, “no” VOC paints are often made with alternative chemical and toxic substances not classed as VOC’s. In addition, federal law only requires paint companies to disclose their paint’s impact as an outdoor pollutant, and even though they contain ingredients harmful to humans, they are exempt from VOC labeling because they don’t negatively impact the ozone outside. It is also important to note that low VOC paints still off-gas, but the level is lower than with traditional paint types.
However, there are a few companies offering truly non-toxic, zero VOC paint that we feel great about:
- Mythic Paint (www.mythicpaint.com)
- Yolo Color House (www.yolocolorhouse.com)
- Ecos Organic Paint (www.ecospaints.net)
So that’s the story. Whether you want to create an accent wall in one room, or change the color throughout your house – check out your options and choose to bring your walls to life – not just with color, but with the right product!