1. 01. Let’s talk about VOCs
  2. 02. WHY?
  3. 03. WHAT?
  4. 04. HOW? 
  5. 05. WHO?

01. Let’s talk about VOCs

02. WHY?

VOCs are contributing a great deal to the environmental impact of spray paint.  Especially in the use stage of spray paint cans the VOCs are emitted.

03. WHAT?

So what’s the deal with VOCs? What are they and why are they relevant? VOC is the abbreviation for Volatile Organic Compounds. It refers to solvents that release into the air as the paint dries [1]. 

04. HOW? 

So how do VOCs exactly harm humans and the environment? First, let’s tackle the environmental aspect. We’ve found a fairly simple explanation on VOCs [2]: 

When exposed to sunlight, VOCs react with Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) to form Tropospheric Ozone (O3), often referred to as ground-level smog. Naturally occurring ozone in the stratosphere protects the planet by absorbing harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. However, if formed at ground level, these compounds can stimulate diseases in plants, inhibit seed production, and hinder fertilization. Heatwaves and hot climates can exacerbate photochemical reactions and lead to increased production of low-level ozone.”

In addition you to this explanation you can watch this helpful YouTube video on air pollution or this YouTube video

Do you want to know more about VOCs in paint? There's a nice FAQ’s on VOCs on Howstuffworks.com

How harmful for humans? VOCs can cause acute symptoms, including headaches and dizziness. The long-term effects are less certain, but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some VOCs are suspected carcinogens. Besides spray paint, other products also emit solvents, including adhesives, cleaning supplies, and even some home furnishings [3].

05. WHO?

VOC’s are troublesome but are they inevitable? Which manufacturers provide insight into the VOC emissions of their products? Who can do something about them? Well were are happy to find that MTN provides Technical Datasheet [4, p.8] that gives an indication of the amount of grams of VOCs per liter spray paint. The unit is: gram/Liter (g/L).

The verdict? One liter of MTN 94 spray paint contains: 576,19 grams of VOC.

This is considered a high level of VOC content within the paint industry. In the US for example a VOC level of 250g/L is considered too high. Especially if you compare this to typical latex paint (which is water-based) and has between 0 tot 10 g/L VOC emissions. In general, a low VOC paint contains less than 50 grams of VOC per liter paint, this is the same for different finishes e.g. flat and non-flat sheen [5]. 

In the US there are states and cities that strictly regulate how often and how much one can paint in terms of VOCs.


[1] EPA

[2] The CCM Group

[3] Consumer Reports

[4] Montana Colors MSDS MTN 94

[5] How Stuff Works