A Revolution in Paint Products or a Return to a Forgotten Art?
Natural eco-friendly paints are no longer an expensive rarity which only the wealthy eco-minded amongst us can afford. Fortunately, there is a plethora of natural paints to suit everyone’s needs and budget. It’s true that you may still pay a little more for natural paints and you may not be able to find them at your local DIY (they are easily accessible, however, online and from reputable painting contractors such as Armstrong 1234) but if you take into account the benefits of using these natural materials, I’m sure you’ll agree that it is definitely worth that little bit extra you’ll have to pay.
The second most common question (the most common being the cost) asked by people who are considering using eco-friendly paints low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or natural paints is whether these paints are durable. We have been conditioned to believe that synthetic products last longer than natural materials but when it comes to paints this is not true at all. Just consider the brilliantly painted homes in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii which was covered by volcanic ash almost 2000 years ago. Do you really believe that if synthetic paints were used, we could still be able to enjoy the lavish frescoes decorating the walls of the homes unearthed after so many centuries of being buried in ash? Most synthetic paints begin to fade and peel only a few years after we apply them but natural paints tend to maintain their brilliance much longer. If natural paints are applied properly then they will be absorbed better by the surfaces we apply them to than synthetic paints.
The greatest benefit of natural paints, however, is that they are non-toxic! The natural paint industry assures its customers that even a pregnant woman could paint a room with the windows closed and not have to worry about any adverse effects on her or her unborn child. Most of us who have picked up a paintbrush must have noticed that unless you are painting outside or in an extremely well ventilated room, you will probably suffer from headaches, dizziness and even nausea. Furthermore, the toxic chemicals found in conventional paints may continue to affect us as long as five years after we have painted our homes or offices. According to our nation’s National Center for Health Statistics, almost 7.5% of adults and 8.5% of children suffer from asthma, in fact, Asthma occurrences increased from 2001 to 2010 and are now at their highest level. One of the causes of this condition is exposure to chemicals. The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes that the release of toxic vapours over the lifetime of the paint (a process called off gassing) in homes or offices can have serious side-effects. WHO has also published reports indicating that people working with conventional paint have a 20% higher risk of a range of cancers and a 40% higher risk of lung cancer. It has also been reported that the more vulnerable groups, children and the elderly, are affected more by the solvent vapours of conventional paints; they can suffer chronic headaches, allergic reactions, heart stressing and much more. The harmful effects both to people and the environment are significant and we should do our best to eliminate them – just think, in order to produce a single litre of paint, manufacturers also produce 30 litres of toxic waste! Even years or decades after a paint manufacturing plant shuts down, the area where it was located can be so polluted that the foul odour of the material used to produce these products is still noticeable.
We can avoid the harmful effects of conventional paints by opting for natural paints which are biodegradable, produce zero VOCs and of course contain no petrochemicals. These paints are usually made from plants, mineral pigments, clay, marble and milk proteins. In fact, for the more resourceful amongst us, there are numerous natural paint “recipes” online which you can attempt to produce yourselves. The recipes usually consist of three types of ingredients: binders to keep the material together, fillers for texture, opacity and whiteness and pigments for color. When using natural paints you can forget the messy and difficult clean ups of conventional paint. They are so safe that you can dispose of them in your kitchen sink and clean up with soapy water. Therefore, the next time you decide to paint your home or office, keep in mind that you are not just applying color to your walls, you are applying material to your living environment which may affect the health of those dearest to you!