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What are VOCs in Paints?

Intelligent people agree that global warming is real.  While its exact causes are unknown, scientists say that greenhouse gases are contributing to it.  Whether or not greenhouse gases are causing global warming, we can all agree that they are bad for us to breathe.  The chief cause of greenhouse gases are volatile organic compounds (VOC).

These compounds are organic chemicals with low boiling points.  Because of the low boiling temperatures, these chemicals convert into a gaseous state in normal conditions.  They typically are toxic and flammable.

Here is an everyday example of what this means.  Water has 3 states; solid, liquid, and gas (please don’t comment about plasma).  Water is solid at 0 C and below, liquid between 0-100 C, and gas at 100 C and above.

Instead of water, let’s look at toluene.

Instead of the vapor pressure of 100 C, toluene’s is 25 C.  This is cooler than room temperature.  Because of this a bucket of toluene will emit vapors in cool temperatures.  Unlike water, these vapors are toxic to humans, animals, plants, and the ozone layer.  Toluene is a solvent common to many industrial coatings and epoxies.

Why are the VOCs in paint?

Paints contain VOCs because of the chemicals that act as the paints solvent.  Solvents keep paint in liquid form until you use it.  That is why paint smells while it is drying and then stops smelling.  The fumes come from the solvents leaving the paint.

The reason that so many paints use toxic solvents is because that is all that technology had allowed for a long time.  Paints that used water as a solvent, like acrylics and latex, were not so durable as paints that used MEK, lacquer, and stronger chemicals as solvents.  This is just one of those “life isn’t fair” things like “why is the most delicious food the least healthy?”  God has a twisted sense of humor, I guess.

The good news is that scientific advances have made acrylic resins compete as good as their more toxic counterparts’.  By replacing the resin package, scientists are able to make awesome paints that use water as the solvent.  That is how paint manufacturers develop “0-VOC” paints that perform better than VOC heavy coatings.

Thanks science!

By

President of GreenWave Solutions, Atlanta’s first and best green painting company.  GreenWave Solutions offers the best painter services in Alpharetta, Atlanta, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Roswell, Brookhaven, Duluth, Grant Park, Inman Park, Buckhead, Midtown, and many more!

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