Paint is a combination of many different compounds. This includes solvents and pigments that give the paint its colour. The solvents in the paint, especially older paints, tend to give off strong fumes when drying. These fumes can be harmful.
Though paint is synthetic it is the organic chemicals that tend to cause problems when released as fumes. These organic chemicals can react with human physiology, aggravating allergies or causing breathing problems and fatigue. They have been connected to birth defects when exposed in high amounts.
The smell of fresh paint is largely due to the release of Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC). This is similar to the smell of new carpet, dry cleaning and some furniture because the main chemical in all these situations is formaldehyde. A small amount of formaldehyde is inevitable in most homes, but it is best to keep levels to a minimum.
Many modern paints are labelled ‘low VOC’ or ‘no VOC’. These paint formulations release little if any chemical vapour, making them far safer than paints of a generation ago. These same paints tend to be water based rather than oil based, though there are exceptions.
While the main walls may have low VOC paint it is not uncommon for the trim (the skirting boards, window sills) to have a different type of paint. Quite possibly there is a small amount of VOC in the air after any paintjob.
It is best to let a room air out for a day or two after painting. This is also good practice with new carpet or floor sealing.
- Leave doors and windows open, and use fans to circulate air.
- Indoor plants will soak up chemicals in the environment.
- Use air purifiers with HEPA filters.
Young children and pregnant women should be kept away from recently painted rooms.
Using environmentally healthy materials and products is a sound policy. We can achieve the best paint results for your home without compromising health or the environment.