Page B2.1 . 30 July 2003                     
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    Avoiding Paint Toxicity

    by Rick Braunshausen

    When considering paint choices for a project, several factors must be balanced, including cost, long-term performance, and the effect on indoor air quality. Each of these factors is so important that it can be difficult to understand priorities.

    Cost may be considered of highest priority if the budget is tight. Performance, if overlooked, can lead to higher costs in the long run. Yet in many, if not most, situations, environmental safety trumps both cost and performance. Balancing these factors has recently become easier with the development of paints that excel in all three areas.

    Poor indoor air quality is one of the most serious problems that architects and engineers work to rectify in both new and existing buildings. The effect of toxic agents from paints is especially dangerous when the building remains occupied during remodeling or repainting. The situation is trickier still when the occupants are young or otherwise vulnerable, as in schools or hospitals.

    Indoor air can be up to three times more polluted than outdoor air, often due to paints and other coatings. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) found in solvent-based paints, when used in or near occupied areas, can make people sick, affect allergies, and be dangerous for certain health conditions.

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the past 20 years have seen a significant increase in the number of people requesting information and assistance on health and comfort concerns related to indoor air quality. The National Safety Council reports that 147,000 Americans were injured in 2001 from respiratory conditions due to toxic agents, which can include solvent exposure. Such exposure can cause headaches, asthma (of particular consideration in school painting projects), reduced productivity, and lost work hours.   >>>

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    Solvent-free paints are not flammable and can be safely applied in a facility with operations that involve open flame.
    Photo: Rust-Oleum

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    Comparison of emissions in paints.
    Image: Rust-Oleum


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