Paints and Coatings: The Impact of VOCs on Performance
The relationship between VOCs and the performance of paints and coatings used to be very strong. The three main sources of VOCs in paints were the resin system — the base of the paint — pigment, and the solvent that mixes everything together.
“All three of those can be sources of chemicals,” Black says. “What has happened through this non-toxic, green-paint development is that all of those materials have now been replaced. All of those have been looked at and known to be sources of the chemicals, and we’ve gone to formulations which reduce the amount of chemicals in the air.”
Shifting from oil-based to water-based paints has lessened the number of chemicals in paints, but it was a challenge for manufacturers to lower the chemical levels in pigment to acceptable amounts, Black says. Pigment, which affects depth of color and the number of coats workers have to apply, is a key component in any paint formulation. But now that manufacturers have reduced the chemical levels in pigment, managers can strike a balance between environmental impact and performance when specifying paints.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), references both Green Seal and Greenguard certifications. Vying for certification under LEED, Green Globes or other green building certification programs can be overwhelming in terms of specifying products that meet the rating system’s requirements. A Green Seal or Greenguard label ensures managers that certain products will earn points toward LEED certification.
Regarding these rating systems’ role in manufacturers developing more environmentally responsible paints, Black says, “These green building programs are big drivers. Essentially, what we do is take all of the guesswork out of that. Once manufacturers go through our Greenguard certification process and get their products certified and can carry the seal of approval, then that’s the verification that (managers) need to take to these green building programs.”