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Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

June, 2004

VOC in Paint

Q. I know many manufacturers are now making low/no VOC paints under either the EPA's standard or that of Greenseal which is lower than EPA's.

However, color additives for tinting add VOC's to paint. Since manufacturers are not currently required to disclose VOC's in paints which have been colored or tinted, it is difficult to get these figures.

To the extent that we're using shades of paint rather than the basic white, we need to know the VOCs added to the paint by the colorings.

Is there any hard/fast rule for determining how many VOC are added to paint (e.g. "X" amount of coloring adds "Y" amount of VOCs in a linear progression)?

Basically, it doesn't matter if we're using a no-VOC paint if we're actually painting an office in a brown earthtone rather than the basic white of the base paint. Thanks

A. Thank you for your question. To the best of my knowledge there is no rule of thumb for determining that the VOC of the colorants. If I were in your situation I would gather several MSDSs that are published by raw materials suppliers and try to establish a range of VOCs for them. You may be able to group them according to color, or perhaps you will find that there are no trends at all and that each color is different.

My next step would be to call a paint vendor or to visit my local hardware store to determine the range of quantities (cc, or mL) of colorants that are added to white based paints. In this case, it is possible that you will be able to classify tints that are made up of small volumes and those that require larger volumes. For instance, you might need very little colorant to make up a pastel color, while you might need more to arrive at a darker color.

It is a simple matter to calculate the VOC content of the tinted colors and you might be able to compile a table of VOCs for various color categories.

The total VOC of a tinted no-VOC white is likely to be very low regardless of what colorants are added.

Please don't hesitate to contact me again if I can be of further help.

Best wishes,

Ron Joseph


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