Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

What’s in Your Paint?

I’ve just moved into a new apartment. In Brooklyn, land of my ancestors. It’s sweet and cozy, and at 500 square feet just about double the size of my last place (I know, we’re ridiculous here). I’m obsessive about making a house a home as soon as possible. Ideally I’d take a week off to put up shelves, organize closets, trap pre-me dust creatures, and the like. But alas. So this is a weekend-by-weekend transformation. One that is increasingly involving smelly, toxic paint.

For the major walls I’ve used low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds, known carcinogens) Benjamin Moore Eco Spec paint. But since it only comes in gallons, I’m painting smaller items (like blah pine nightstands) in full-VOC quarts. The thing is that both kinds make my lungs hurt and my glands swell a little, and give me a slight cough. Not good. Especially for me, a recent cancer survivor. But what’s a decorating, color-adoring, health-guarding girl to do? Leave everything white and naked? I can’t bear it.


The truth is NONE of us should be using things with labels that read, “carcinogenic”—whether that word applies to “maybe” or “mice” or anything. So why do we? Why is every grocery store brimming with toxins? Why is spackling a wall a dance with death? Though I’m as careful as I can be most of the time, I often dull my knowledge with denial, with trust. Like some nebulous “they” wouldn’t allow us to use something that’s really dangerous? Right?

Color me paranoid (with no-VOC tints, please). But what do you think? Do you try to limit the amount of toxins that enter your home? What risks are you willing to take in the name of aesthetics, color, craft, beauty?

I love the idea of milk paint, aromatherapy milk paint, and these no-VOC paints and finishes.

By Valerie Reiss. Amy’s on vacation.

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