Paint it green!
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.