Greener paint

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					April 07 T Wells      24/3/07     17:18     Page 29


     ‘Greener paint’...
                       or is it?                                                      By Lorraine Evenden

     There’s something extremely satisfying                                         Traditional solvents, such as
     about painting a wall … and then                                              white spirit, and synthetic resins
     another one, and then the whole                                           in traditional paint can cause irritation
     room. But as you beaver away,                                           to the user – but then so can natural
     lovingly    transforming     your                                     alternatives. Some ‘green’ paints contain
     immediate environment, do you                                       plant based oils such as d-Limoneme,
     spare a thought for the impact you may                            distilled from citrus peel, which provokes an
     be having on the wider environment?                             allergic reaction in some. It is wrong to assume
     And do you wonder, too, if that gloopy,                      that natural ingredients are always better for
     malodorous mixture you are using might                      you than synthetic ones. Some natural pigments,
     damage your health, or that of                                           for instance, such as vermilion, are
     your family?                                                                highly toxic.

     Dr Hermann Fischer did. He is                                               Greener paint usually cost more,
     the German chemist who, back                                                although this may not be your
     in the early 1970s, began                                                  major consideration if the paint
     research to concoct a ‘greener’ type of paint.                         job you are doing is relatively small,
     This was a tougher proposition than it sounds. Each        and it does tend to be more hard-wearing. There
     of the numerous ingredients in traditional paints is       may be a restricted range of colours available
     there for a reason: leave something out and it may be      compared to standard products, but that depends
     a struggle to find a workable, acceptable alternative.     on the company’s willingness – or not – to include
                                                                synthetic ingredients.
     Nevertheless, Dr Fischer persevered – and went on
     to found Auro, a leading producer of environmentally  If you do choose ecological paints then, almost
     friendly decorating products. Of course, the industry certainly, you will have a clearer idea of what is in
     has come a long way since then. There are now         them. ‘Green’ manufacturers take pride in disclosing
                                                           their ingredients – and that includes boasting about
     scores of different companies offering ‘cleaner’ paint.
                                                           what they leave out. But pop down your local DIY
     Meanwhile, the major manufacturers of conventional
                                                           store to view the range there, and chances are you’ll
     paints have also taken steps, albeit modest, to clean
                                                           find precious little information to guide your selection.
     up their act. Witness the growing popularity of
     water-based paints as opposed to solvent-based or Needless to say, pregnant women and people with
     oil-based. These claim to be lower in potentially certain conditions such as asthma or ME will need to
     harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) be particularly cautious in their choice. But whichever
     released into the air both during and after use, some type of paint you choose, certain precautions are only
     of which are known to be extremely toxic. The UK sensible: ensuring adequate ventilation while you
     coatings industry has adopted a classification and work, following manufacturers’ instructions and
     labelling scheme which ‘bands’ products according disposing of leftover paint in a responsible way,
     to their VOC content, from very high (more than perhaps by donating it to your local community
     50%) down to minimal (less than 0.29%). In theory repaint scheme, which will then redistribute it to a
     at least, this enables the consumer to choose safer worthy cause.
     products. However, in order to compensate for the Community Repaint Scheme Will collect most types of
     lack of solvent in gloss paints, more chemicals are paint, so long as it’s under 10 yrs old, in original containers,
     added which may well be dangerous in themselves. more than a third full.


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