December 19, 2022

Paint: Acrylic vs. Mineral

Beyond color choice, there are a wide array of paint options available.

It can be confusing to know which to choose when working on a new or renovation project of any scale. The most common interior paints are acrylic based—sometimes called “latex.” These are produced with petrochemicals derived from fossil fuels, making them carbon intensive and exponentially accelerating our climate crisis.

Most people know about volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paints and know to look for no or low VOC acrylic paints. But other materials in acrylic paints like binders, pigment and other additives are equally as toxic. For example, alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs)—a group of chemicals combined in acrylic paint for viscosity—are suspected endocrine disruptors, leading to hormonal dysfunction in humans and animals, and the disruption of marine life.

Acrylic Paint with APEs and antimicrobials can disrupt our hormone functions

Additionally, new research reveals that acrylic (or plastic) particles are the predominant source of microplastics in the ocean and waterways. Particles of paint account for more than half (58%) of all the microplastics that end up in the world’s oceans and waterways every year.. and plastic particles have been found in the human bloodstream. (…) (…)

“Particles of paint account for more than half of the microplastics that end up in the world’s waterways”

The better news is that healthier paint options such as mineral, clay or plant-based paint are now readily available. Although transitioning to these paints requires different installation and practices, it is an easy learning curve. These paints can be used in interior and exterior applications and can be a superior option against mold. Unlike acrylic paints that lightly coat a wall surface, mineral paints penetrate into porous surfaces, which means they will be significantly more durable.

It may not always be possible to avoid acrylic paint altogether, but we can dramatically reduce our consumption. In our materials collection, you’ll find some ‘less harmful’ plastic paint—although we strongly recommend avoiding them. Acrylic or Latex paint is often the first choice in many projects, and low or zero VOC options are available. We acknowledge that this is a good first step to take.

Whenever possible, the best choice is to use paints made from minerals instead of fossil fuels. You can do so by referencing the paints in our material collections that are carefully vetted by our team. They are not only healthier in so many ways, but they also create beautiful spaces.

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