What are VOCs? VOC is an acronym for Volatile Organic Compound. VOCs refer to chemical compounds that tend to vaporize into the atmoshere. While not everyone is affected by this off-gassing, many people are very sensitive and can become quite ill.
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), interior latex flat coatings must have a VOC level under 5 grams per litre to be considered Zero-VOC. IMHO, zero means zero. I'm not however, suggesting that a 100% Zero-VOC paint is a good idea. In fact, the VOCs in the paint help the paint to perform better. Certain VOCs give paint more open time. This means the paint dries slower; while impatient painters won't like the idea of a slow drying paint, it's a good thing as it self-levels, eliminating roller and brush marks.
Low-VOC paints must have a VOC level under 50g/l. Again, this is for flat latex paints. The higher the sheen, the higher the VOCs.
Another big misconception is that when you buy a "no-" or low-VOC paint, that's what you're taking home. That would be true if you took the can off the shelf and started to paint. While the base can be "no-" or low-VOC, the tints or colorants are not. Tints can more than double the VOC level. A lighter colour will have less VOCs than a darker colour.
There are two dominant testing methods for VOCs in paint. Test Method 24 was once the most popular method, but is no longer considered as accurate at low levels (not registering any VOCs or levels that are too high). Test method D6886 is now considered the more accurate test.
I personally recommend C2 paint for all my clients and indoor products. Their new LOVO line was created to surpass their premium line in quality and eco-friendliness. Low odour, great coverage and gorgeous colours (though it can also be tinted to match any paint brand or custom colour) are just a few of the pros C2 offers. All their bases also test at 25-40 g/l making them a smart choice for a low-VOC paint.
"C2 doesn't want to go green just for the sake of going green, but only if it also makes the product better."
Lee Martin, General Manager of Randall's Paints and Executive Board Member of C2 Paints.