VOC stands for volatile organic compound. Don’t be fooled by the word organic. We often associate organic with things that are better for us but VOCs can be harmful.
There are thousands of different VOCs produced and present in our daily lives; they can be released from carpets, air freshners, cosmetics, paint, even newspapers. Some are more toxic than others and some smell unpleasant whilst others are odourless. It’s worth bearing in mind that strength of odour isn’t necessarily an indicator of the level of toxicity.
As VOCs are found throughout the modern home they can be very difficult to avoid. Some level of exposure is clearly inevitable, fortunately when going about our daily lives we aren’t generally exposed to high levels which pose an immediate threat. However if you or members of you family or friends suffer with asthma or allergies you will probably want to minimise the VOCs present in your home. Even if you are lucky enough not to suffer it is still best to avoid them where possible as there is some evidence to suggest VOCs can have compounding long-term health effects.
VOC in paints
Paint is a common source of VOCs in domestic and commercial environments. As awareness has grown so has the demand for low VOC paint that is environmentally friendly. The market for eco paint has grown and there is plenty of choice out there but the definition of what an eco paint actually is can vary. For more information on what makes an eco paint take a look at our FAQs here. Many paints now emit only low levels but our principle ranges – Earthborn Claypaint, Eggshell, Wood Stain and Ecopro Emulsions – are virtually zero VOC.
What to look for when choosing paint Check the VOC paint declaration which is now a legal requirement before making your choice. Other things to look out for are independent verifications such as the European Ecolabel. It is also worth checking for a list of ingredients. We list the ingredients on all our paints because we are proud of what goes in every tin.