Q&A: Is my home’s paint safe, or should I repaint?

From PureLiving China’s response to a question posed to Beijing Organic Consumers Association (BOCA).

If we are not sure what type of paint was used in our home, is it safer just to repaint? If there are harmful chemicals in a paint, are they still harmful after a lot of time has passed and all odors have dissipated?

The best way to know if paint is affecting your indoor environment is to have your indoor air tested. Doing an entire new paint job without air testing is potentially very wasteful in terms of cost, energy, and also of materials and carbon. In addition, depending on the new type of paint selected and what the current state of your indoor air quality, a paint project could potentially result in worse post-renovation indoor air quality.

A few tips:

  • Look for paint VOC content of 50 grams per liter or less. This type of paint should give off almost no additional emissions within two weeks. If you are very sensitive or have less than a week to air out before moving in, look for VOC content of <35g/l.
  • Look for a reputable paint dealer. I have had clients who purchased counterfeit paint. Go to the paint manufacturer and ask if the dealer is authorized to sell.
  • Paint generally will completely off-gas within two years, with the most off-gassing occurring during the first six months of that period. If the paint is older than two years and testing indicates indoor air quality problems, look elsewhere in your home for the source.
  • Sealants can take much longer to off-gas. I just had someone test over 1000% higher than the maximum allowable limit of benzene due to use of concrete sealant on walls and floor.
  • Avoid gauging air quality on smell alone. You can often be at unsafe air quality levels but be below the odor threshold. Some chemical emissions may have no smell at all.
  • Furniture is the more common culprit and takes much longer to off-gas. Because its surface area is often contained and it is usually closed up, emissions from furniture will not improve quickly unless you target remediation (for example, with VOC reduction treatment or encapsulation).
  • Heat and temperatures play a big role in off-gassing. Summer is the best time to renovate if you don’t occupy while you’re renovating because materials will off-gas the fastest.  If you can have the work done, and then ventilate with fans and go on vacation, that’s ideal.
  • Self-test kits for formaldehyde are inaccurate and misleading. We compared the results from DIY formaldehyde test kits to actual lab test results and posted our findings here.

For more information or to arrange a testing, contact us.

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Q&A: Is my home’s paint safe, or should I repaint?

  1. Old decoration is bad-looking but good for your health. Anyway if you want to repaint, you must buy some good quality paint


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