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Monday, January 18, 2010

Going Green:

Zero- and Low-VOC Paints: Separating Fact from Fiction

When latex paints were first introduced 50 years ago they revolutionized the industry, but many skeptical painting contractors swore they would never replace oil-based paints. 'Not durable enough,' they complained. 'Too hard to apply.' 'Too...well, different.' Exactly the same comments are being made about green paints in many quarters. Unfortunately, for many so-called 'green' paints put out by our competitors, those criticisms are valid. Some do require multiple coats just to get the same coverage as one or two coats of conventional latex, and they dry fast, so brush strokes can be a problem. Some haven't proven to be very durable, and require recoating after only a year or two. Worst of all, after they've been tinted at the store most aren't even zero- or low-VOC.


Low levels of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are--or should be--the one thing that all eco-friendly paints have in common. VOCs are the carbon-based solvents that give traditional paints their obnoxious odor. The raw materials that contain VOC's are used for a number of reasons, mainly connected with application properties and freeze thaw stability. VOCs in traditional paints account for 2-4% of existing ozone-depleting substances in the U.S. and have also been linked to various health problems. 

Because of their health and environmental effects, VOCs have been and continue to be regulated. Presently it's an alphabet soup of standards at national, state, and regional levels* but very soon, "going green," ie using low or zero VOC products, will be a part of everyone's life. Regulations aside, however, the biggest confusion is created by misleading certifications. Simply put, consumers and contractors are being "greenwashed" into believing products are zero- or low-VOC when they're not. This is because widely-used third party certification agencies, such as Green Seal and Greenguard, don't account for the high-VOC universal colorants which are used to tint paints. In practice this means that a paint can earn a "low" or "zero" VOC designation but contain significant levels of VOCs as soon as it's tinted. (As you'd expect, the darker the tint, the higher the level of VOCs. A dark tint can boost VOCs to up to 100g/L, twenty times the accepted level for a "zero VOC" product.)

With no industry-wide definition of what green paints actually are, a confusing mix of standards that can be applied to them, and flawed third-party certification programs that don't accurately measure product VOC as-used or performance, it's no wonder that painting contractors look at green paint with the same apprehension they had when latex paints were first introduced. That's why when we at Benjamin Moore began to develop green paints we knew we had to create an entirely new colorant system that didn't rely on carbon-based solvents. The challenge was to reduce or eliminate these solvents but still have the colorfastness and durability associated with traditional VOC-containing paints. The result is our Green Promise® portfolio of paints, which includes Aura® and Natura®. These zero- and low-VOC products that rival the performance of our best traditional paints while exceeding the most stringent industry standards for environmental safety. And unlike most green coatings, these paints are available in any color without compromise, thanks to our patented zero-VOC water-borne, Gennex® colorant system.

* For those of you interested in the fine print, the EPA's National Volatile Organic Compound Emission Standards for Architectural Coatings--the so-called AIM rule--which took effect in 1999, limits the VOC content of flat paint to 250 g/l, and non-flat paint to 380 g/l [VOC levels are expressed in pounds per gallon (lbs/gal) or grams per liter (g/l)]. Some state and regional agencies have even lower emissions standards. In Southern California--where Orange County is the smoggiest region in the U.S.--the South Coast Air Quality Management District's VOC limits are the strictest in the country. The EPA may soon revise its AIM rule to adopt more stringent limits close to those in effect in the OTC region (ozone transport commission) which incorporates a number of states in the Northeast. Today, a typical can of flat interior latex paint contains about 150 grams per liter of VOCs, compared to 50 g/l or less for a flat, low-VOC paint. Recently, the SCAQMD adopted the 50 g/l limit for ALL paints, and this level is the typical upper VOC limit for most green building standards. The accepted level for no-VOC paint is currently 5 g/l or less. 


If you are preparing to paint your car or simply considering the option the first thing you need to know about Auto paint colors is that not all colors work for all cars. If you think about cars that has been driving around town, you can probably think of some very different cars that made him think that what they were thinking about painting the car that color.

Jim, As both Natura and Aura our on our Gennex platform and use a waterborne colorant system, the event of fading will be not likely to happen. Certain colorants have the potential to fade in a solvant or conventional colorant system however the waterborne system used in these products have been formulated to retain their color using this new technology.

how does natura and aura handle color fading i believe this is very if not one of the most important properties of paint

John, there are no immediate plans for Natura in Matte. However, we constantly evaluate consumer and contractor needs so if enough people desire it, we would certainly look into it.

Will Natura come out with a matte finish? Right now I believe they have flat, eggshell, semi gloss

Aura is part of an innovative colorant system integrating the best technologies to deliver superior durability for any color along with the promise of long lasting beauty. In addition to using 100% acrylic latex, proprietary resins have been incorporated to give the product its extraordinary performance properties. The features include extreme hide, never more than two coats in any color, it provides a mildew resistant coating, our innovative color Lock® Technology which means no color rub-off, stains will wash off easily as well as having excellent touch up and it is self priming. Aura is the finest paint we have ever made. Aura has also certified under the GREENGUARD Standard for Low Emitting Products and the GREENGUARD for Children & SchoolsSM product certification programs.

Natura is the greenest paint that Benjamin Moore & Co offers. It is a premium interior waterborne paint is a zero VOC, virtually odorless formula that doesn't compromise on performance. It dries fast, has excellent adhesion and provides a durable finish with an unlimited color selection. Natura features our Green Promise designation, so you can breathe easy knowing that you've used the very best for your environmentally sensitive projects.

what is the difference between Aura and Natura?

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