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Low-VOC paints

Arlene DiMarino | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

Is it necessary to use low-VOC paints if you aren’t moving in a house for several weeks? I am chemically sensitive but I was told that the paints would be fully off gassed in a few days to a week. Is that true?

I also am concerned because there is a small area 4×12 ft where my builder wants to use oil based primer. I am concerned that there will be prolonged release of VOC’s. I have used low-VOC paints in the past when I painted my home while living there. I still could not be in the house for several days because I reacted strongly to them.

Also, they certainly were not as durable as regular paint. I just don’t want to use anything that will be off gassing over time.

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Replies

  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Arlene,
    I always preface my reactions to such questions with a standard disclaimer: "I'm not a doctor. For answers to medical questions, talk to your doctor."

    I don't think anyone on this site can comment on your condition. The phrase "chemically sensitive" can refer to people with a gamut of symptoms, ranging from irritation at some strong solvents to people who are so sensitive that they move to Arizona and live in a tent.

    If a GBA reader says, "Don't worry -- paint away. You'll be fine," my comment would be: how could any of us possibly know?

  2. Michael Chandler | | #2

    One of the benefits of using low VOC paints is reduced impact on the ozone layer, it was part of the global impact section of the old GBI green building standard, so it is always worthwhile to use low VOC paints and finishes.

    Ventilating the house for a few weeks before moving in is also a very good practice, so go ahead and do both.

  3. Arlene DiMarino | | #3

    I had called the rep from a major paint line and was told that once the pint dries there is no further off gassing. I was actually wondering if that is true. I did not know about paints impact on the ozone layer so I guess thats another reason to go with the low voc. I did not find the low voc paints to any more tolerable when I used them 10 years ago. I am assuming they are much improved since I last used them. I definitely plan to ventilate and have installed an air exchange system too.

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