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Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

July, 2010

VOC Question

Q. I have presented this question to the EPA and have never received a straight answer. Hopefully you can help. Does a standard interior flat house paint (Behr brand) continue to produce VOC's after it has completely dried? If so, for how long after? Just a rough timeline would suffice. Also, does the same apply for a lacquer such as a furniture or floor coating? Finally, If I build a piece of furniture from MDF (medium density fiberboard) paint it with the above mentioned paint and seal all of it with a lacquer will it perpetually produce VOC's? Thank you very much in advance for sharing your expertise and hopefully providing me a much needed straight answer.

A. VOC are essentially organic solvents. Water is not a VOC.

Waterborne acrylic latex paints contain very little VOC but large amounts of water. Nearly all volatiles (water and VOC) evaporate soon after the paint is applied. The thicker the coating, the longer it will take for them to leave the film. Temperature and humidity of the environment will also affect the evaporation rate. In my opinion, by far the majority of the volatiles will evaporate within a few days, perhaps 48 hours. Some semi-volatiles, such as plasticizers can evaporate over a period of weeks and months, but they are present in the coating in small concentrations. One can conduct laboratory tests to follow the evaporation of all volatiles and identify the compounds.

The same comments apply to all coatings that contain solvents and/ or water.

If you are very sensitive to VOCs, I suggest you select only waterborne paints, since the concentration of organic solvents is very much less.


Ron Joseph

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