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what are VOCs?

Volatile Organic Compounds are found in most paints out there and they are bad for your health.

Zero VOC

the EPA defines zero and low VOC products in specific terms. How do ours line up?

more information on our finishes including MSDS sheets and other testing

Our Finishes

Our Testing and Certifications

testing & certs

FIND OUT MORE...

There are several widely used and accepted tests which are presented as indicators of the health and environmental impacts, or "healthiness" of a coating, as well as a multitude of third party and industry certifications. Despite this large offering, all of these tests have limitations in scope, allowances and accuracy. Examples are:

1. The test reports only a subset of VOCs (for example those with a boiling point within a certain temperature range, or only those associated with the production of smog) but does not identify other harmful chemicals that are off gassing.

2. The test reports VOCs (or a subset of VOCs) but does not identify other harmful chemicals that are present but are not VOCs (solids, for example).

3. The test, or certification, allows for an amount of toxic ingredients which need not be reported even if the product "passes" the test.

4. The certification allows for "proprietary" ingredients to be undisclosed, or not reported if they represent a small enough percentage of the total mass of the other ingredients. The test is not capable of measuring a coating's ingredients, or VOCs, to an appropriate level of accuracy, such that it can provide definitive results.

5. The test method is defined in such a way as to limit its value to the consumer--for example testing a liquid coating that has dried out, as which point the majority of the solvents have already evaporated.

6. The test covers only the base products and not additives (such as pigments) which will inevitably be incorporated by the consumer.

Our manufacturer, Imperial Paints, LLC, has submitted products for many tests (the results for several are below) and states that they will continue to undertake more.

VOC test results

Our manufacture has formulated our paints in an effort to provide consumers with as safe a product as they can, while maintaining a premium quality performance. In addition, they tint all of our paints in-house, which ensures zero VOC (conforms to CDPH 01250 [VOC emissions test taken at 11, 12, & 14 days for classroom and office use), no glycol pigments. Other paint manufacturers either ship to third party stores for tinting, or carry a variety of tint formulations in their own store. With this type of arrangement, it is very difficult to guarantee the use of only a particular tint (zero VOC, for example).

Contaminants are ubiquitous and water is the "universal solvent". As such, unintentionally added VOC and other compounds (which could even come from tap water that has been certified by the EPA as safe to drink) can be introduced in trace amounts into water based liquids. These contaminants would then be recorded in tests which have been designed to identify very small amounts of VOCs. There is no product, nor test methodology which can truly have and record zero VOCs or contaminants because the simple existence of a water based liquid in the real world will result in its contamination.

As a result, consumers should not anticipate that a product labeled "Zero VOC" will contain absolutely no measurable VOCs (or contaminants). Typically this claim is qualified by the test measurement used to verify the zero value, a threshold above zero grams per liter which  is allowable, a list of VOCs which are exempted, or a statement indicating it applies only to intentionally added ingredients. Given the shortcomings of all the commonly used tests, consumers are best served by an abundance of test results (from various methodologies), the identification of any recorded VOCs and the amount measured (so that it is possible to determine any risks posed) and a complete list of ingredients intentionally added to the product.

other methods

The Health Product Declarations

The HPD Open Standard provides a consistent, and transparent format to accurately disclose the material contents and associated health information of a building product. Our manufacturers HPDs are third party verified and include 100% of their ingredients. Our manufacturer has disclosed that there are some instances where a supplier has not allowed them to fully identify one of their proprietary ingredients but they have health screened, identified and recorded those ingredients as they do all of the others. HPDs can be found on our Finishes page.

EPA Method 24

This method is applicable for the determination of volatile matter content, water content, density, volume solids, and weight solids of paint, varnish, lacquer or other related surface coatings. The test is widely reported in the industry despite the fact that it is recognized by the EPA itself as a poor measure of VOC levels in waterborne coatings which have very low levels of VOCs. As such, a coating with a recorded measure of 5g/l or below of VOCs can be labeled "Zero VOC". Furthermore, reported VOCs are only those which contribute to smog formation (many are exempt), and the overall measurement does not qualify individual VOCs by how harmful they are. The level of VOCs reported is not a proxy for the healthiness or otherwise of a product which could contain toxic chemicals which are either exempt VOCs, or which do not vaporize. Consumers should be aware of the limitations of the test and the potential for a false understanding of the "healthiness" of a product.

ASTM D6886

The standard test for the determination of the weight percent of individual volatile organic compounds (with an initial boiling point of less than 250 C) in waterborne air-dry coatings by gas chromatography. This test reports VOC content, with a minimum recordable threshold of <1 g/l, which would be considered zero. ASTM states that this test is about ten times better than EPA Test Method 24 and that the test performance, compared with EPA Test 24, improves further as the VOC content approaches zero (as is the case with our coatings). EPA Test Method 24 allows for 5g/l VOC content for a "zero" VOC product. Differences between test methods can include, for example, chemicals like Texanol (an ester alcohol described as the premier coalescent for latex paint) which has an initial boiling point of 254oC and is variously recorded as a VOC and not a VOC for individual test methods. Our products do not contain Texanol. Test results for individual products can be found on our Finishes page, along with the ASTM D6886 results. 

declare labels

consumers want to know whats inside.

Declare labels are issued to products disclosing ingredient inventory, sourcing and end of life options. Declare labels are based on the Manufacturers Guide to Declare administered by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). Our manufacturer identifies all ingredients, when can be checked against public databases of chemicals that describe their effects on human health. 

We are proud to disclose all ingredients in our paints.  The declare labels for each finish we offer can be found on the finishes page or click below for all declare labels from our manufacturer. 

EPA Method 8260B

This method determines most volatile organic compounds with boiling points below 200C by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Method 8260 is used to determine volatile organic compounds in a variety of solid waste materials.This method is applicable to nearly all types of samples, regardless of water content, including polymeric emulsions. The test identifies sixty six specific compounds, including some of the most problematic chemicals commonly found in paints such as: benzene, chlorobenzene, methylene chloride, styrene, tetrachloroethene, toluene, vinyl acetate vinyl chloride and xylene.In addition to these named compounds, Method 8260 can be used to quantitate most volatile organic compounds that have boiling points below 200C. Using standard quadruple instrumentation and the purge-and-trap technique, measurement limits are approximately 5ug/kg and paint can be analyzed in its wet form. Method 8260 test results for our paints can be found on our Finishes page.

ASTM D-4236

This test applies to many children's toy products such as crayons, chalk, paint sets, modeling clay, coloring books, pencils, and any other product used by children to produce a work of visual or graphic art. The test is to determine the absence of substances which have the potential of causing a chronic hazard. The designation "conforms to ASTM D-4236" means all of the potentially hazardous components of the product have been clearly labeled on the product packaging. Some common components, such as solvents, cause allergic reactions or are dangerous if they touch the skin or the eyes, others can cause respiratory problems if over-inhaled. The ASTM D-4236 standard requires these components to be listed on packaging, and assesses a product for toxicological expectations. Our manufacturer's test results (which include the pigments too) showed no expectation of oral toxicity, skin irritation, respiratory tract irritation, corrosion, or chronic toxicity. ASTM D-4236 test results for our paints can be found on our Finishes page.

CDPH 01350

California Department of Public Health Test 01350. Standard method for the testing and evaluation of volatile organic chemical emissions from indoor sources using environmental chambers. This test is performed on samples which have been allowed to “cure” for a period of fourteen days at which time they are tested for emissions – which are categorized as total VOCs, target VOCs (which are considered more harmful) and aldehydes (including formaldehyde). Performance requirements include a limit for the total VOCs measured, with specific upper thresholds for VOCs which are considered to be of concern. This test measure is better suited to new construction where buildings could remain unoccupied for several weeks following completion, and where VOCs would be able to disperse before the building was inhabited. For renovation projects, where a building will be occupied either during, or shortly after work is completed, emissions measured at fourteen days are less helpful – particularly as many products have peak emissions as they are applied and dry. Our manufacturer reports that test results (which were all a pass) showed no measurement of the chemicals of concern and trace levels of additional VOCs - which it is recognized can be introduced as part of the product handling and the test process which requires the introduction of air that is known to contain a limited amount of VOCs. CDPH 01350 test results for our paints can be found on our Finishes page.

EN 71-3

European standard EN 71 specifies safety requirements for toys. Compliance with the standard is legally required for all toys sold in the European Union. The standard has been published in 13 parts, with EN 71-3 relating to the total migration of toxic metals (Arsenic, Mercury, Selenium, Barium, Lead, Antimony, Chromium, and Cadmium) in a material to determine if it is safe for use in children’s toys – which could be chewed, or placed in a child’s mouth. Our manufacturer's products were shown to be suitable for use in children’s toys with respect to EN 71-3. EN 71-3 test results for our paints can be found on our Finishes page.

JPMA

The Juvenile Product Manufacturer’s Association (“JPMA”) is an organization dedicated to promoting the industry and the safe use of juvenile products. It offers a stringent certification and approval process, for determining the suitability of products for use by and around juveniles. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) is a non-profit association representing approximately 250 manufacturers who make 95 percent of the prenatal to preschool products in the U.S. market. Each of the JPMA Certification Programs is foundationally built on an ASTM standard with federal and state requirements layered on, as well as many of the major retailer requirements.

British Allergy Foundation 

The British Allergy Foundation evaluates products through testing carried out by independent laboratories to protocols which have been created for the Seal of Approval by leading allergy specialists, specifically to benefit the sufferers of allergy, asthma, sensitivity, and intolerance. The main endorsement is a seal of approval which provides the reassurance that a product has been scientifically tested to prove it is efficient at reducing/removing allergens from the environment of allergy and asthma sufferers or the products have significantly reduced allergen/chemical content. Testing is carried out by an independent laboratory.

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