Last month, Environment Minister John Baird announced that the Government of Canada is taking action to reduce emissions from chemicals in consumer and commercial products such as paints, varnishes, adhesives and vehicle repair cleaners.

These components are known as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC’s.You probably know them as those headache-inducing fumes that greet you whenever you open a can of paint, glue or other chemically infused wonder product. Apparently, these odors also cause smog, and quite a bit of it.

Naturally, the affected industries are crying in their paint cans a little, and the New York Times even wrote an article quoting industry sources saying the new low-VOC products would be a second-rate choice, peformance-wise.

“…there is no way, at least with the products currently available, to replicate the sheen, consistency or lasting power of an oil-based paint, particularly for use on cabinetry, trim, bookshelves and other specialty jobs.” The article states. “… painting a wall or ceiling can require several more applications of the newer paints made to be low in volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.’s, than of old-fashioned latex blends.”

I put this issue in front of Bill Willis, President of CBR Products, a Vancouver company that has been making BRODA® low-VOC stain and coatings for over a decade. He passed the link on to Sam Goldberg, the President of AFM, makers of Safecoat® low-VOC products with a 25-year history.

Mr. Goldberg responded to The New York Times to clarify things from his point of view:

“No doubt there are regional biases to using certain products, but the tone of the piece suggested that environmental coatings were, and still are, inferior to their toxic counterparts. While that may be true for some companies that are simply jumping on the bandwagon to take advantage of the increasing interest in green, our experience is otherwise.”

AFM Safecoat semi-glossGoldberg continues. “…the quality of a paint job is far more a function of surface preparation and the skill of the applicator than of the paint itself (although you’ll rarely hear an applicator admit it). Speaking as we must only for ourselves, we know how to make very good paint, and it’s the “greenest” out there. But not everyone knows how to paint, and therein lies the rub.”

The bottom line is, to find out how these products work in your environment, you’ll have to try them yourself.

I can speak personally for both CBR and AFM products, having used them on our mountain cabin with excellent results and durability. And the experience of actually using the stuff without the harsh fumes is vastly superior. Not to mention being able to clean up your brushes with soap & water. But now I’m probably laying it on a bit thick.

Bias Check: CBR Products is a Unicycle Creative client, and the Canadian distributor for AFM.

Our low-VOC cabin in the woods

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