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Emissions from low-VOC and zero-VOC paints - valuable alternatives to conventional formulations also for use in sensitive environments?

: Schieweck, A.; Bock, M.-C.


Building and environment 85 (2015), pp.243-252
ISSN: 0360-1323
Journal Article
Fraunhofer WKI ()
interior paints; emission; airborne pollutants; test chambers; going green; museums

The reduction of solvents in paint formulations constitutes a major effort in order to provide environmentally-friendly products that are not harmful to human health. A promising alternative to conventional formulations may be those with very low content or no presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), so-called “low-VOC” and “zero-VOC” interior paints. Sample specimen were mainly produced in the U.S. and labelled as “green” products by a variety of different certification marks. The content of semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and the emission potential was studied by means of solvent extraction and chamber emission tests. It was found that all paints contain SVOCs in order to circumvent solvent classifications. Even though the spectrum of emitted substances was limited under test chamber conditions, the emission potential was very high due to the increased release of individual VOCs/SVOCs. Additionally, the paints released heightened acetic acid levels and are therefore not favored for the use in sensitive environments. The manufacturers' recommendations that the paints emit low or negligible levels of VOCs/SVOCs with no need for long periods of ventilation after application could not be confirmed by this study. The same applies to so-called air purifying paints that should adsorb airborne pollutants. Thus, sufficient ventilation time before re-occupying renovated rooms is required, especially in the presence of sensitive persons, young children and elderly people. It is strongly recommended to check product certifications thoroughly and to make a decision on the basis of material emission tests in order to assess if a product fulfills the personal requirements.