How paint technology can contribute to healthy living environments
With indoor air quality a crucial component of design, AIA partner Benjamin Moore examines how paint is evolving to reduce pollutants while preserving aesthetics
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, people spend the majority of their time indoors, including homes, offices, schools, and other environments, where they may face significant health risks due to repeated exposure to air pollutants. A major contributor to indoor air pollution is volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals emitted from certain building materials and household products such as paint, carpeting, interior furnishings, and cleaning and personal care products.
Common sources of VOCs in paint include universal colorants, used for adding colors to base paints; coalescing agents, a solvent used in water-based paints to help form a continuous film; solvents, which help reduce the viscosity of the paint for easy flow and application; and glycols, which increase a can’s “open time” and allow for easier application. Many VOCs, including those that can be found in paint, are irritants that can potentially produce or contribute to select health issues such as headaches and nausea; shortness of breath; sinus congestion; irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, and throat; dizziness; memory loss; fatigue; depression; and more.
In an effort to combat the concerns associated with VOCs, manufacturers have been proactively seeking out new technologies over the past 50 years. As such, architectural and coatings technologies have evolved significantly to ensure compliance with regulatory standards toward lowering emissions and indoor air pollutants with innovations such as waterborne paint systems. In addition to providing low VOCs and emissions, new waterborne technology has also resulted in the better overall performance of coatings. Some of the many advantages to waterborne products include easy clean-up, no rub-off, gloss retention, fade resistance, non-yellowing qualities, flexibility, and stain blocking.
The introduction of the waterborne technology also paved the way for a major breakthrough in colorant innovation. The universal colorants formerly used in both latex and oil-based products were glycol-based and had an adverse effect on performance while still adding significant VOCs to the paint. In 2005, Benjamin Moore formed a team of diverse chemists, whose research resulted in an entirely new waterborne colorant system made from copolymer resins. This development revolutionized the industry as the colorant itself was low-VOC while also making the paints more durable, offering better hide, and making the colors deeper/less resistant to fading.
Architects and designers are at the forefront of creating socially responsible structures and interiors with future generations in mind. As the industry and technology evolve, the need to understand how products like paint can positively contribute to healthier and safer environments will continue to expand and ultimately drive new and higher standards for years to come.
Learn more about finding the right paint for your project at benjaminmoore.com.
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