Beware of VOCs in Paint

It is estimated that there are almost 60,000 tonnes of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) released into Australia’s atmosphere every year. Major paint manufacturers contribute significantly to this amount using tints that contain high levels of VOCs.

Traditional oil-based paints are generally composed of 35-50% chemicals including aromatic hydrocarbons, ketones, alcohol, esters, volatile plasticisers and fungicides, just to name a few.

When paint dries, it releases these compounds which can cause headaches, nausea, eye and nose irritations and throat infections. In worse case scenarios, there is a risk of kidney disorders, and some VOCs in paint are known carcinogens. Even tinted paint that has been labelled as ‘Low-VOC’ often contains levels that can still cause damage to people’s health and the environment. Water-based acrylics may contain the same chemicals and still have 3-7% solvent content.

Apart from health damages, the environmental impact is devastating. For every litre of paint produced, the transportation and mining of the ingredients requires 25-kilowatt hours of energy, uses 9 litres of fresh water and produces 15 kilos of greenhouse gases.

Fortunately, paint recycling programs are being implemented worldwide to help collect, transport and process post-consumer paint, including leftover and unwanted paints. Another sustainable alternative are ‘natural’ paints with components made from renewable resources such as linseed and citrus oil. These ingredients do not require high levels of processing, and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the product. Natural paints also contain much lower levels of VOCs.

Public awareness of recycled and natural paint has increased only slowly over recent years, mainly because of the expense and lack of colour choices.


  • Carol Parr

    We’re glad you’re here. We’re Carol and Tony, founders of one of the longest running Healthy Home Blogs in the world, Mitey Fresh Australia. We’ve been on this journey for the last 25 years and are passionate about helping families sift through health hazards and triggers like allergens, mould, water damage, chemicals and EMFs, to get clarity about what’s toxic and what’s not so they can create a healthy and happy home for their family they love. Each month, people visit this blog seeking focus on the health and wellbeing of their loved ones, sustainable and effective practice tips and guides, to help create and manage healthier indoor spaces, improve the built environment that is pleasing to the senses and support healthy living and nature, every day. Starting this blog was to help change people’s lives, one family at a time, and we can’t wait to share how its allowed us to stand next to you and show you how interpreting these synergies between buildings and the environment they are built in will impact upon the health and well-being of those who occupy them. Find out more about Healthy Homes and what this blog can do for you!

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