I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but a few months ago we bought a house. We took possession at the beginning of June and have been getting it ready for our move-in date which is fast approaching. When I went looking for a house I had a few criteria (my real estate agent would beg to differ, and say that I had MANY criteria). A friend of mine once told me that when looking for a house, write down ten points that make up your dream house, and when a house has seven, you have a winner. I think I’m able to count nine of ten items with this house, so it’s worked out well in that respect. Although originally I wanted a “fixer-upper” so I could use as many of the materials I’ve written about as possible, in the end, I discovered there was a premium for fixer-uppers in Montreal. So, we ended up with a house that will need a new furnace and a new kitchen. It’s actually my dream scenario: all the difficult work has been done (new windows, new plumbing and new wiring), and all the prettying-up has been left for us. Part of that prettying up involves making the house our own through the use of paint.
So, needless to say, I searched out paints that were better for our health and the environment than standard paint. I spoke with experts in the field from painters to distributors to manufacturers and then, finally I narrowed down my choices to three different kinds of paint: a zero-VOC* acrylic, a clay-based paint and a lime-based paint. Originally I was going to try several of the paints I’d written about, particularly Green Planet, AFM Safecoat and Homestead House acrylic. Unfortunately, none of these paints are available in Montreal and I would have had to order them through stores in Ontario. Not only does this add shipping costs, but if I didn’t like a colour I’d ordered, or the way it went on the walls, I’d have to invest more time and money choosing a new one or abandon the idea altogether. Because we are painting the entire house, using locally available paints was really important.
Mythic Paint: Mythic is a zero-VOC acrylic paint available in over 1200 colours with colour matching to other manufacturers’ colours too. They bill themselves as being a “non-toxic” paint. I felt uneasy with this self-declaration, after all, acrylic is liquid plastic and one would have to assume that because plastic is made of petroleum-based ingredients it is toxic — if not to humans, then to the environment. I contacted Mythic to ask them about their declaration and received a response from Vic Barnhill, Ground Support Leader, at Mythic. His response to my concern is quite detailed and better to let him speak for Mythic than my paraphrasing:
As far as durability goes, we are as good if not better than any conventional paint brand on the market. Like most paint you can paint over it with another brand.
All paints are made with chemicals and binders. It does not matter if it is a “green” paint or conventional. All water based paints are made of water, dirt, glue and what I call 11 secret herbs and spices. The water is the solvent in the paint. It holds everything together and keeps it from drying out in the can. The dirt or minerals give toughness, sheen uniformity, color and also take up space so the paint is opaque. The glue or binder is what holds everything together and on the wall after the paint dries. It also helps with durability. The secret herbs and spices are the raw materials used to thicken the paint give it flow and leveling, help with durability and other properties that we look for in paint. These are trade secrets due to the fact that we have done over 10 years of research to find alternatives to more conventional toxic materials. We would lose our competitive edge if we let everybody know what they are. Any company that says they are only made of plant materials and minerals is not telling the whole truth.
The reason we are able to make our claim of non toxic is based on the following;
- We are Master Painters Institute (extreme Green), Green Wise, Pharos Project, MAS, CHPS and Regenerative Networks certified.
- All of these certifications are verifiable, independent third party testing groups.
- None of our products contain any material found on the Pharos Project “Red List”.
- We are California Proposition 65 chemical compliant and do not have to put this warning on and of our products.
- Our interior products are tested and certified by Materials Analytical Services. These products display the MAS Certified Green mark and meet or exceed environmentally determined testing standards and are environmentally preferred over traditional paints and coatings.
- These products are compliant with the CDPH emissions standard specified for low-emitting Paints and Coatings under the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) and the LEED programs. As such, qualified project uses of the compliant paint and all our interior paints are eligible for 1 credit point each under EQ 2.2.2 for Paints and Coatings under the CHPS program, and 1 credit point each under IEQ 4.2 for Paints and Coatings under the LEED for Schools Program.
- All of our claims have been vetted in the legal arena and found to be truthful and accurate.
- It should be noted that the founder of the Green Building Council, LEED certification program and a founding member of Regenerative Networks, David Gottfried, picked and used our products on his own home and Mythic Paint is the only paint manufacturer chosen by the U.S. Regenerative Network as part of their sustainability and resource sourcing efforts in the US.
We go to great lengths to makes sure that are claims are true and verifiable.
There are certain advantages to this paint (and zero VOC acrylic paint in general) that are not in natural paints’ properties. For instance, if you live in an older home that has layers and layers on the walls (our “new” house was built in 1928), a good zero VOC acrylic primer will seal in those extra layers of paint and prevent any off-gassing, assuming that the paints are still off-gassing.
Acrylic paint dries much faster than natural paints, so if you’re only doing a small room, you may find it more convenient to use acrylic than natural paints.
There is a wider variety of colours available, as well as colours from other paint lines can usually be matched by competitors.
One thing I’ve written about before is that a paint can become a low-VOC paint (as opposed to a zero-VOC paint) once pigment is added. It had been difficult for paint manufacturers to get the VOCs out of the pigments. However, from what I understand, progress has been made in this area by most paint manufacturers. If you’re concerned about VOCs in pigments, ask the paint retailer.
Acrylic paint is available in a variety of finishes from flat to semi-gloss. Adding a little sheen to the paint makes the painted wall easier to clean. Our walls are being painted in eggshell, while the trim is being painted in pearl finish.
Disposal: The best way to dispose of these paints is through your municipality’s household hazardous waste program, or if there’s only a little paint left in the can, let it dry thoroughly and dispose of in the garbage.
So far, my painter, who has never used Mythic before, loves this paint. He finds it very easy to work with, enjoys a completely odourless environment, and believes it will be very durable over time. It spreads over the walls and ceilings evenly and dries quickly.
In Montreal, Mythic is available through City Paints.
*VOC stands for “volatile organic compounds.” These are compounds which evaporate into the air (off-gassing) from all kinds of objects. Pollution Probe has done a study indicating that indoor air quality is more than ten times as bad as outdoor air quality, in part due to the off-gassing of these VOCs. They are found in most new items we bring into our home from glues, adhesives and paints found in new furniture, carpets, fabric, to household cleaners. To give yourself cleaner indoor air quality, open your windows on warmer days and let the air circulate throughout. In addition, use less harmful cleaners, and try to stay away from MDF or pressboard made with VOC filled adhesives, or seal exposed edges once it’s in your home (Note: there is a zero-VOC MDF board called Nu-Green).
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