THE INSIDE SCOOP
GREEN BUILDER RECOMMENDS
For interior surfaces, specify a low-VOC or no-VOC water-based product, but be sure that the manufacturer specifies what compounds are used to replace the binders and solvents. Whenever possible, order pre-primed, factory finished products and before painting any exterior siding, plan ahead so that the wood (or other material) is covered quickly and not left exposed to the elements. Look for paints with the GreenSeal, SCS, or GreenGuard labels. The LEED-H program also offers a good reference guide for VOC content in adhesives as well as paints.
ADHESIVES THE FINE PRINT
Like paints, adhesives are now marketed as low-VOC and eco-friendly. But as with paint, it’s important to get all of the facts—not simply to accept the product’s branding pitch. For example Gorilla brand just released “Gorilla PVC,” adhesive for use in PVC plumbing—a product it markets as “eco-friendly,” and, “preferred by the chemically sensitive.” But if you read the fine print, the glue contains NMP, “a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
CAULKING SEAL THE DEAL
For the most part, latex-based caulkings tend to release less toxins during application and initial drying than their solvent-based counterparts.
But the verdict is still out about how latex products impact air quality over the long term. It’s important, however, with both paints and caulkings, never to use exterior products indoors. The level of off gassing is likely to be much higher for exterior products.
There’s also the question of durability. While 100% silicone caulk produces strong initial off gassing (some of which is from vinegar in the mix) it’s also likely to perform better than an acrylic-latex based product, particularly in wet areas.
As you can see, choosing a green paint or adhesive is not always as easy as reading a label. You have to shop carefully, understand how and when this product should be applied, and weigh whether the product’s air quality benefits are as good as they sound.
GLOSSARY OF TERM
KNOW THE LINGO
> Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Toxic ingredients common in paints, adhesives, and many household items that are released into the air.
> Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs)
These substances were listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Here’s the EPA list: http://www.epa.gov/ttnatw01/187polls.html
Commonly referred to as “oil based,” this type of coating is typically higher in VOCs than water-borne paint, containing a petroleum-based solvent and a binder of synthetic resin.
> Acrylic Latex
This widely used finish uses water as a solvent, and tends to be lower in VOC content than alkyd products, although it may offgass more slowly.
How well a paint allows water vapor to pass through it without blistering or failing.
> Back Priming
Coating the back or hidden face of siding or trim prior to installation as an added measure of protection from moisture.
CLOVERDALE (RODDA) PRIMER
Sold in the United States under the Rodda paint brand, this primer is water based, with no VOCs and low odor. Detailed information on other ingredients was not available. www.roddapaint.com
GLIDDEN LIFEMASTER NO VOC PRIMER/SEALER
Glidden deserves credit for making an early commitment to less toxic paints. This has given them plenty of time to improve its low odor, no-VOC brand. The company offers a full spec sheet for the primer, including a general ingredient list. www.gliddenprofessional.com