No matter what it's made of, paint is a compound of thousands of chemicals. It's scientifically designed to glide easily onto your walls and surfaces, then harden there with exposure to air. When you think about it, that has to be quite a recipe. And once you've smelled house paint for the first time, you know there's something not very tasty going on.
Compared with the fresh air outside, most indoor air is three times more polluted, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that this is one of the top five health hazards we all face. Among those toxins are paint emissions, which can linger for years after we paint. Until recently, these toxins -- volatile organic compounds, or VOCs -- were considered essential to the performance of paint: If you wanted color on your walls, you had to breathe those years' worth of VOCs and pay the consequences. But environmental regulation and new awareness about these issues has led to the development of many low-VOC, no-VOC and natural options for paint. In fact, most paint companies now carry at least a low-VOC line.
We've come a long way from the old lead-paint jokes, but that doesn't mean all paint is completely nontoxic. The very nature of the product means it contains harsh and scary chemicals. But if you're concerned about indoor health risks, low- or no-VOC paint is something you should consider. It's better for your family and the planet.