When Painting Children’s Rooms, the Paint Choice is as important as the Choice of Colour.

Paint and coatings regulations are a welcome development in our industry. Despite the atmospheric focus of regulations, painters and homeowners welcome the less harmful paints available today. When homeowners choose eco options for painting, they want a paint job that will not harm their indoor air quality. Young families with children are even more protective of their indoor environment, as they should. The main reason parents paint children’s rooms, is to create a space where they can grow and feel comfortable. Colour stimulates the senses of children, so a colourful paint job is an important part of creating a nurturing room for a child.

Are zero VOC paints safe?

Most water based paints, also known as latex paints, contain organic and non organic ingredients, pigments, additives, binders and water. The most harmful ingredients are the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). These are mostly solvents and agents that help with the film formation of the paint. Many paints are formulated with ethylene glycol, a known toxicant. Biocides and other agents used to stop bacteria growth, are common ingredients in paint. Exposure to VOCs can result in developing allergies and asthma, especially children, still developing their immune system.
It is not just the VOC in paint that is the problem. For example ammonia and acetone are very dangerous chemicals. Yet, they are exempt from regulations as they are not classified to be VOCs.
Paint without Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are safer that paints of the past. But safer does not mean that they safe. You would think paints deemed good for the environment, would be safe for our homes, but they are not. Greenwashing is alive and well in this industry, so consumers would do well to research their choices.

Colour can be Toxic

Most manufacturers don’t have the ability to add colour to their paint without using universal colourants. Universal colourants are solvent based and very harmful. The more colourants you add to paint the more toxic it gets. This is obviously a problem for parents wanting to add colours to children’s rooms. Painting kid’s rooms without colour is almost pointless.
Some paint companies developed colourants that are waterbourne and therefore less toxic. In 2005 Benjamin Moore introduced their Gennex® patented waterborne colorant system. Choosing strong and bright colours without adding VOC became possible. A few years later we can say that this was indeed a great development for paints. This colouring system did not affect paint quality negatively. In fact, the quality of paints improved despite eliminating toxic universal colourants. Since then, more manufacturers introduced their own version of water based colourants.

Benjamin Moore’s Natura Commercial below:

Propylene Glycol – Glycol Ethers (PGEs) and Children

Propylene glycol and glycol ethers, known as PGEs, are ingredients in some paints. They are used in low VOC or zero VOC paints as a replacement for organic solvents.

There is a study linking allergies and asthma in children to these chemicals. The study was conducted by a team of scientists from Harvard and Kalstad University of Sweden. The scientists measured the level of PGEs in the bedroom air of 400 toddlers and preschoolers, and discovered that the children who breathed them had substantially higher rates of asthma, stuffy noses and eczema. (Source)

Children living in a house where at least one room was painted right before or after their birth had 63 percent more PGEs in their room than those whose houses had not been repainted.

What are some precautions?

Most families decide to redecorate when they have children. Whether redecorating happens just before or after children are born, the following are some precautions:

  • Limit the exposure. If possible, paint children’s rooms when they are away for a few days. At the very least, have them sleep in another room for a few days. To minimize the effects that painting your interiors has on your indoor air quality, overall ventilation of the house is very important. If possible paint the house and especially the nursery, way before the baby is born.
  • Paint a small part of the room. If the room is in good condition, you don’t have to paint the entire room. Consider painting a highlight wall and couple more small items such a door or a window frame.
  • Use lighter colours. Many paints use universal colourants that are toxic. You don’t have to use bright and contrasting colours. According to the experts, it’s actually better that you don’t. Very bright colours, especially contrasting ones can overstimulate the senses of young children. Pastels and soft colours can be quite comforting and soothing to a young child. Traditionally, light blues and pinks were used depending on the gender of the child. Soft yellows, light apricots, minty greens can also be used.
  • Use accessories and other accents. Drapes, bed covers, furniture, toys, even a wallpaper border can add sufficient colour to stimulate a child.
  • Use zero VOC paints with waterbourne zero VOC colourants. That’s a given, but we can all be fooled by cute colourful Disney characters in colour brochures at the paint store. Keeping in mind that zero VOC is not harmless, follow the manufacturer’s safety and ventilation advice. 
Zero VOC Paints and Children's Rooms.

Ecopainting is an environmentally responsible painting contractor. I would be remiss for us not to mention that hiring an eco-friendly painting contractor is suggested. We are knowledgeable and care enough to provide you with the best options.

With a few simple precautions and common sense choices, parents can now focus on choosing the right colour.

Call us at 416 733-7767 to discuss these options.

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