Over the years we've all used products without really thinking about their impact on us and the environment - as long as they did the job that was enough.
The paint in your home is likely to contain all kinds of nasty chemicals - particularly oil based paints. Not all of these chemicals go away when the paint is dry and can have a lasting affect on the health of people living in the house.
So what's the alternative? Recent EU regulations limited the level of VOCs (volatile organic compounds - the fumes that fill the room while you are working, and afterwards) so things are improving. However, most low VOC paints are made with acrylic (basically plastic) so although they are less toxic, they are far from sustainable in environmental terms since acrylic is a petro-chemical product.
My mission is to search for reliable, quality paint products made from natural ingredients where possible - preferably from a sustainable source. The solution isn't straighforward but every small step takes us closer to the goal.
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking any paint that is labelled as non toxic is a good thing. There's a lot on the market claiming to be that - water-based they may be but they still use acrylics and some chemicals that are best avoided.
Given a choice I prefer to use all natural paint - products that don't include harmful or synthetic chemicals. These natural paints are slowly appearing on the market and they don't necessarily cost more than standard trade quality paints. So going 'eco' doesn't need to be expensive.
But natural paints have other advantages. When they do have a significal smell it's pleasant and not overpowering like the fumes from traditional oil based products. Once it's on the wall, woodwork or upcycled furniture, it stays cleaner - no plastic so no static to attract dust.
I am still using non-natural paints in some cases, either because a client wants a particular colour and it's not available in my prefered products. Or because a task needs a certain problem solving paint to do a proper job. I keep this to a minimum and as new eco products become available I evaluate them and add them to the list of approved paints.
In addition to the paints I use, I also use a dust-free sanding system so there's less mess, less dust floating in the air and less cleaning up.