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Color This Paint Green

Personal Business: Home


Most do-it-yourselfers find that slapping a fresh coat of paint on a drab room is an easy way to give the place a breath of fresh air. Now, along with the cosmetic rewards, a new kind of latex paint can actually help keep the air itself fresh.

The product contains none of the mineral spirits or other petroleum-based solvents or thinners used in almost all paints. So it's odor-free and does not emit harmful fumes. Such vapors can combine with other atmospheric gases to produce low-level ozone, a major component of smog. Some solvent-free paints have been marketed to environmentally aware customers in Germany and other European countries for several years. Now Glidden, based in Cleveland, is the first to offer one in the U.S. Stores began stocking its Spred 2000 brand in May.

Executives at such competitors as Benjamin Moore, Pratt & Lambert, and Sherwin-Williams are considering whether to offer comparable nonsolvent paints. But they note that standard interior latex paints contain only 2% to 7% of the harmful solvents known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In contrast, the typical oil-based paints recommended for exterior use or high-traffic areas average 40% or 50%.

SAFE LEVEL. "There's a big reduction in VOCs if you use a gallon of latex paint instead of an oil-base product," says a Sherwin-Williams spokesman. "But the environmental effect is minimal when you talk about going down to 0% from just 4%, which is the level in the majority of our products." What is more, adds a Benjamin Moore executive, most paint producers already market products that comply with stringent environmental regulations in California, New York, and other states that limit VOC levels.

Still, every little bit helps. So Rohm & Haas, which supplies solvents to the industry, came up with the VOC-free technology Glidden is using. The product is a waterborne polymer. It gets mixed with the coloring pigment and the resin that makes the mixture stick to a surface. When the water evaporates, the polymer particles fuse together to form a smooth coating on the wall. R&H Marketing Manager Andreas Rademacher says the material is being made available to other paint companies.

In general, paints with lower VOC counts dry more slowly, go on less smoothly, and may not be as durable as others. But Glidden claims the new polymer technology lets Spred 2000 fully measure up to conventional paints. So even though a gallon costs $1 or $2 more, customers concerned about the air they breathe won't think they're paying through the nose.Edited by Amy DunkinReturn to top

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