Paint it green!

Enterprise - - Industry View -

Paints and var­nishes may beau­tify our homes and of­fices but they can also pose se­ri­ous health and en­vi­ron­men­tal risks. Paints are es­sen­tially a smooth blend of chem­i­cals that cause se­ri­ous risks to the sur­round­ings dur­ing pro­duc­tion, man­u­fac­ture, ap­pli­ca­tion, use, and ul­ti­mate dis­posal. Chem­i­cals such as Volatile Or­ganic Com­pounds (VOCs) in paints are re­leased as in­vis­i­ble fumes dur­ing ap­pli­ca­tion and form bad ozone when ex­posed to sun­light. This causes ir­ri­ta­tion in mu­cous mem­branes of the nose, ears, eyes and lungs; in­creases risk of res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases such as asthma and dam­ages crops and veg­e­ta­tion.

Paints used to pre­vent cor­ro­sion in marine ve­hi­cles con­tain organ­otin com­pounds that are toxic to aquatic an­i­mals. Heavy met­als are also used in paints that are highly toxic when used in large quan­ti­ties. Many paints are lead-based; a poi­sonous me­tal that causes cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem dis­or­ders in hu­mans and is a ma­jor cause of dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment. Paints ap­plied in au­to­mo­bile re­fin­ish­ing also have harm­ful chem­i­cals. Other chem­i­cals in con­ven­tional paints such as gly­cols, toluene, hy­dro­car­bons, xy­lene, and am­mo­nia are also danger­ous to health and the en­vi­ron­ment.

To avoid all the en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards caused by paints, lac­quers and var­nishes, green paints were pro­duced. Green paints are ecofriendly paints that have low or zero VOCs and fewer harm­ful chem­i­cals. They are gen­er­ally pro­duced by us­ing nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents and re­new­able re­sources such as lin­seed oil and cit­rus oil, thus re­quir­ing lit­tle pro­cess­ing. The VOC lev­els of such paints are low as sol­vents and binders de­rived from plants are used. Th­ese paints do not have any harm­ful ef­fects to the en­vi­ron­ment. Also, the wa­ter used for clean­ing up af­ter the paint job is fin­ished can be used for gar­den­ing and ir­ri­ga­tion.

Paints are a ma­jor source of in­door and out­door air pol­lu­tion. As such, green paints are highly ben­e­fi­cial to the sur­round­ings. Con­ven­tional paints that are not eco-friendly emit fumes even af­ter they are dried. Low­er­ing VOCs in paints even­tu­ally re­duces toxic emis­sions, pro­vid­ing a greener en­vi­ron­ment. Green paints are also a way to re­duce for­ma­tion of bad ozone at ground level. Apart from dis­eases and health risks caused in hu­mans, marine life is also en­dan­gered be­cause of paints. Us­ing green paints is a great way to block con­tact with harm­ful ma­te­ri­als as they pro­vide a sus­tain­able so­lu­tion that makes the en­tire chain of pro­duc­tion, ap­pli­ca­tion and dis­posal of paints safer and cleaner than be­fore.

There are a few en­vi­ron­ment­friendly paints such as milk paints also known as ca­sein paints, low-VOC, zero-VOC or low-odour paints, nat­u­ral paints and sil­i­cate or min­eral paints. Milk or ca­sein paints are made of milk pro­tein called ca­sein, clay and lime while wa­ter is added when the paint is about to be used. Low or zero VOC paints are, as the name sug­gests, paints in which the quan­tity of volatile com­pounds is lit­tle. Nat­u­ral paints are formed by nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents from plants and min­er­als. Sil­i­cate or min­eral paints are in­or­ganic and odour­less.

In Pak­istan, there aren’t many paint-man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies that of­fer ac­tual green paints. It must be men­tioned here that sim­ply of­fer­ing lead-free op­tions to con­sumers isn’t enough be­cause that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean the paint is safe for the en­vi­ron­ment. Hav­ing said that, Kan­sai Paints did in­tro­duce en­vi­ron­ment-friendly and plant­based paints in 2006. Sim­i­larly, Nip­pon Paints also in­tro­duced green paint in 2009 with its new prod­uct, Nip­pon Spot-less Emulsion, which has near-zero VOCs and is odour­less. This green paint is also stain-re­pel­lent, anti-fun­gal and has su­pe­rior-wash abil­ity.

On the in­ter­na­tional front, there are a num­ber of com­pa­nies that of­fer green paints. This in­cludes Dutch-based Ak­zono­bel (which is present in Pak­istan as well) with its Du­lux Trade Ecosure prod­ucts that are eco-friendly. Paint com­pa­nies in the US such as Ben­jamin Moore, Sherwin-Wil­liams, Dupont and Di­a­mond Paints, of­fer a range of en­vi­ron­ment-friendly paints. Nip­pon Paints and Kan­sai Paints in Ja­pan pro­vide green paints.

In­ter­na­tion­ally, strict rules and stan­dards are set for the level of VOCs in­cluded in paints. NGOs and health agen­cies play an im­por­tant part in cre­at­ing aware­ness about the risks as­so­ci­ated with paints. Au­thor­i­ties such as the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA), Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion (OSHA), etc. are ac­tive due to which paint com­pa­nies tend to pro­duce paints that con­tain less harm­ful chem­i­cals.

The Paint in­dus­try in coun­tries other than Pak­istan are more en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble and spend more on re­search and de­vel­op­ment, thus, com­ing up with safer paints. Also, con­sumers are more aware about the health and en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards caused by paints. There­fore, they are more in­clined to­wards buy­ing eco-friendly paints.

There is a great po­ten­tial in the Pak­istan mar­ket for eco-friendly paints and, if mar­keted, con­sumers will def­i­nitely opt for the safer op­tion. How­ever, there is also a need to cre­ate aware­ness among users about the ben­e­fits of us­ing green paints. The only pos­si­ble draw­back could be that green paints are rel­a­tively ex­pen­sive to man­u­fac­ture so the re­tail price may be higher than the other vari­ants avail­able.

Glob­ally, there is con­cern about pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and in­tro­duc­ing green tech­nolo­gies that are ben­e­fi­cial to the sur­round­ings. Green paints also come un­der this cat­e­gory since the raw ma­te­ri­als as well as pro­cesses used to pro­duce them do not re­lease tox­ins in the en­vi­ron­ment. In Pak­istan, this trend has yet to catch on but, from a sales point of view, it can be the next big thing if mar­keted prop­erly. Paint man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies, by in­tro­duc­ing a line of eco-friendly paints, can cre­ate a pos­i­tive im­age for them­selves which will in­ad­ver­tently boost sales and prof­its.

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