The paint industry has made a significant effort to reduce the presence of various harmful substances in their products e.g. volatile organic compounds. And, with that in mind, some products were awarded seals of approval e.g. from the EU Ecolabel or the British Allergy Foundation. However, these seals do not necessarily mean that these paints are problem-free.
Certain water-based and heavy metal-free paints, for example, are improvements from those which were previously on sale. However, the high demand for some paints on the market and their “organic” appearance leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to stricter criteria about the presence of certain chemicals.
Due to a lack of adequate regulations, some paints are allowed to be described as “eco” when they are probably not, although perhaps more so than others which they have replaced.
An example of how supposedly safer paints can still be harmful is one shown by a scientific study into the presence of compounds such as PGEs (propylene glycol and glycol ethers) in water-based paints and varnishes. These chemicals, which have been linked to health problems such as allergies and childhood asthma, were originally used in place of other substances which were seen to be more harmful. We have to be extremely careful when choosing organic paints, as this topic is more complicated than you may think.
Nowadays, the ecological paint market in Spain hasn’t reached a scale so big that it is easy for a consumer to easily find these products in any shopping centre. They are normally found in shops which have a particular policy on truly ecological products. These brands include PNZ, Livos, Naturhaus, Biofusta, Biofa, Ecoquimia etc.
You should also be aware of the fact that some organic paints can carry some harmful elements, although less so than certain non-organically based paints, for example in solvents.
Some organic paints use vegetable oils instead of often harmful, conventional solvents, as sometimes additives and plastic materials are added to them too.
There are very few brands (and rarely well-known ones) which can truly be considered as ecological. They have good results time and time again, meaning there is no longer a need to use toxic paints.
Plant chemicals are often used e.g. linseed or castor oils, or natural solid resins. There are also mineral-based substances e.g. potassium silicate which can be mixed with inorganic pigments.
We can also buy powdered pigments and mix them with linseed oil for painting.
In more certain cases, you can revert back to using slaked lime, which was used before.
Aside from paints, the eco industry supplies products for other uses e.g. to strengthen the wood on parquet floors so we don´t need to go back to covering them with plastic films. There are also anti-woodworm protectors, linseed oil varnishes, cedar and maple oils to preserve wood, bangkirai oil, hardwax oil less harmful paint strippers and solvents etc. To clean paintbrushes and rollers, you can use natural turpentine or, even better, citrus essences.