At Metaefficient, we try to only feature products that are toxin-free. Take interior paint, for example — how can a paint be considered “efficient” if it leaks toxic substances into your home for months or even years? According to the EPA, VOC-laden paint is a primary contributor to unhealthy indoor air, and it can significant impact your health. As anyone who has painted a room in their house can attest, paint gives off fumes as it is applied and, especially, as it dries. And those gases are full of VOCs, which cause a wide variety of health problems, particularly respiratory problems.
Efforts by a slew of environmental and public health groups have succeeded in getting the word out about the health dangers of VOC paints. And in classic capitalistic fashion, the nation’s paint producers have responded by developing low-or-zero-VOC paint products.
According to Green Seal, a nonprofit organization that sets standards for obtaining low-VOC certification for paint, the VOC levels in a flat top coat wall paint should be less than 50 grams per liter to qualify as low-VOC. For higher-sheen paints, like satins or semi-glosses, that figure goes up to 100 g/l. This same standard applies for primers, undercoats and floor paints as well.
Listed below are some of the paint brands most popular with the average consumer (i.e. someone who purchases paint at one of the nation’s home improvement stores). For comparison’s sake, each product selected is a flat interior top coat paint, which, as noted above, qualifies for low-VOC status if the VOC content is 50 grams per liter or below.
Miller Paint Acro Pure Interior Acrylic Latex
Miller Paint is a popular paint supplier in the Pacific Northwest. Miller sells its paint through retail stores throughout Oregon and Washington, and reached beyond the Northwest through independent dealers in Arizona, California, Hawaii and New Mexico.
Miller’s Acro Pure paint is an ultra-low-VOC interior acrylic latex finish designed for application to the interior walls in residential, commercial, institutional and industrial environments. The company recommends this paint for new or previously painted interior wallboard, plaster, masonry or previously painted or primed metal or wood substrates. Acro Pure is also enhanced with antimicrobial protection to inhibit the growth of odor-causing mold and mildew bacteria on the dried paint surface.
With less than 6 g/l for its flat interior, Acro Pure easily meets the Green Seal standard. It’s priced at $30.95 per gallon.
BEHR Premium Plus Interior Flat Ultra Pure White
BEHR is the in-house favorite at The Home Depot, one of the nation’s most popular home improvement stores. As such, it is one of the most easily accessible paints for typical American do-it-yourselfers. The company’s Premium Plus Interior Flat Ultra Pure White is a common base paint. With a traditional matte sheen, the paint is described as ideal for family rooms, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, hallways and ceilings that require a scrubbable, mildew resistant finish.
With a VOC content of 46 g/l, this paint just barely scrapes under the Green Seal standard of 50 g/l.. It is priced at $20 per gallon.
Valspar Ultra Premium Flat Finish
Valspar is the go-to base paint at Lowes, the nation’s other home improvement giant. According to the company, the Ultra Premium Flat Finish will enhance the walls and ceilings throughout the home with just one coat. Guaranteed to last a lifetime, this premium paint is also spatter resistant during application and gives a mildew resistant finish.
While no specific VOC levels are provided for this paint, the company assures consumers that VOC content is less than 50 g/l, making it just worthy of Green Seal certification. It is priced at $20 per gallon.
Sherwin-Williams’ Duration Home Interior Acrylic Latex
Sherwin-Williams has been around for a long time — long before the big-box stores hit the home improvement scene. In fact, the company got its start way back in 1866. Since then, Sherwin-Williams has not only grown to be the largest producer of paints and coatings in the United States, but is among the largest producers in the world, selling its paint through retail stores and dealer partners on every inhabitable continent. The company’s low-VOC product is its Duration Home Interior Acrylic Latex, which the company promises will provide long-lasting durability, ideal for high-activity areas like kitchens, hallways, and bathrooms. Duration Home Interior also carries the Sherwin-Williams’ GreenSure designation, which means that it offers maximum performance and long-term durability, and was designed and manufactured taking steps to reduce environmental impact and to meet or exceed the most stringent regulatory requirements.
This paint’s VOC content weighs in at 15 g/l, far lower than BEHR and Valspar, but not quite as low as Miller. It is priced at $48.99 per gallon.