Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the chemical components in paints that make them dry fast. They are also what create paint's distinct odor -- and sometimes cause health problems. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that some VOCs are suspected of or known to cause cancer in humans [source: EPA]. Additional health complications VOCs can cause include nose and throat discomfort, headaches, allergic skin reaction, nausea, fatigue and dizziness [source: EPA]. So, doesn't it just make sense to eliminate paints with VOCs from your kitchen?
But VOCs don't just make paint dry fast; they also give it the high-quality look. (That's why high-gloss paint tends to smells more; it has more VOCs.) Remove the VOCs, and the paint doesn't look as good. But low-VOC and no-VOC paints are getting much better, as demand for the products rises.
The U.S. government regulates the amount of VOCs in paint, so in order to be considered low- or no-VOC, paint must meet certain criteria of chemical levels. You know paint has met the standard if its canister labels it "Low-VOC" or "No-VOC." When you buy paint with this label, you are getting fewer chemicals released into the air of your kitchen.
The higher-quality, reduced-VOC paint you purchase, the better final finish your walls will have. Higher quality usually means paying more, but in this case the price is typically a smart investment. Poor quality paints will usually leave an unappealing finish, and homeowners sometimes end up buying more buckets and coating their walls more times in order to compensate. Prices vary greatly, but you should be able to purchase reduced-VOC paint at $20 to $60 a gallon [source: Green-Living.com].