Voc Talk

There is a lot of talk about house paints and the toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that they contain and subsequently release for years after application. The truth is that even water-based latex paints contain thousands of chemicals. When the paint is applied to a surface, these chemicals are released into the air where they mix with other particles and form ozone. Ozone is a very common air pollutant that has been linked to nausea, headaches, eye irritation and other more serious health problems. In some cases, these toxins in the paint can continue to be emitted for years to come, though they are at the highest levels at the time of painting.

Interior Painting vs. Exterior Painting

Levels of VOCs can be as much as ten times higher inside than when used for exterior painting. At the time of application, the toxins in the air are at their highest, and indoor levels could be as much as 1000 times higher than the same application outdoors.

Safer Alternatives

Much in the same way the dangers of lead paint were discovered and eventually banned, there are already government regulations limiting the amount of VOCs that can be contained in typical house paint. Many paint manufacturers have taken this a step further and now offer low or no-VOC paints.

Consumers are cautioned that while the base paint may not contain VOCs, it is important to check and ensure that the pigment used to tint the paint is also free from VOCs.

Quality and Price

For the best local information, a qualified Athens painting contractor will be able to advise a homeowner on the quality and pricing of these paints from personal experience. In general, paints without VOCs do tend to be more expensive, though generally not prohibitively. A glance at some on-shelf pricing reveals a difference of anywhere from $10-$25 depending on the grades of paints being compared. There has been some question about the quality and longevity of these newer, safer paints. Many initial reports are favorable, though more long term testing is underway.


While further testing and development of these products is taking place, it would be a wise investment to at the least specify these low or no-VOC paints when repainting the interiors of your Athens home. Families with small children and/or people with respiratory problems may see the most benefit. As the price comes down and demand increases, these paints will likely become the norm for residential painting.

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