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How Advanced Technologies Promote Better Indoor Air Quality and Coating Performance

MONDAY, MAY 7, 2018

By Rick Watson, Sherwin-Williams

Photo: Courtesy of Sherwin-Williams

When it comes to creating inviting indoor spaces, there are many considerations for selecting the right paint for the job. Some of today's advanced coating technologies make it possible for building industry professionals to create interiors that not only please the eye but also help improve indoor air quality, reduce common indoor odors, reduce mold and mildew on the paint finish and even kill certain disease-causing bacteria on painted surfaces.

The "healthy building" trend has become an extension of the green building movement, going beyond the desire to meet environmental and sustainability standards, toward creating dynamic spaces that address people's well-being.

Following is an overview of the top factors that go into choosing coatings, along with the latest technologies that should be considered.

Indoor Air Quality

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. This means they may be exposed to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from a wide variety of sources, including fabrics, flooring materials, cleaning products and office equipment such as copiers, paper, permanent markers and even paint.

When considering which paints to use, it's important to understand how they are made. Paint is composed of four principal ingredients, including pigments for color retention, liquids/solvents as carriers of paint to the wall, additives that enhance performance, and binders for adhesion and resistance to peeling, blistering or cracking.

Many paint colorants add VOCs to the finished product, and even paints formulated to be zero-VOC won't always maintain that level. However, innovative color technologies are available that won't add to the VOC content of latex- and water-based coatings when tinted. Your paint supplier can advise you on which paints contain colorants that won't add VOCs.

Formaldehyde Off-Gassing

Off-gassing from building materials is also something to consider when creating improved indoor environments. Formaldehyde and other aldehydes are commonly found in a variety of products, including plywood, fiberboard, glues, adhesives, and some cabinets and insulation materials.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), formaldehyde is an organic compound that poses short- and long-term health threats. Choosing paints with formaldehyde-reducing technology makes paint an active problem-solver in an indoor air environment, reducing VOCs from potential sources like insulation, carpet, furniture and fabrics.

When the formaldehyde gas comes into contact with a surface that has been painted with a formaldehyde-reducing coating, the paint breaks down the organic compound at a molecular level, disrupting the carbon chain and converting the formaldehyde into water molecules and a harmless inert gas, providing immediate and ongoing formaldehyde reduction in the space. The amount of formaldehyde reduction is dependent on the concentration, the frequency of exposure and the amount of surface area painted.


Unpleasant odors can detract from even the most beautiful design. Many commercial buildings and health-care facilities have challenges controlling odors in areas such as cafeterias, restrooms and patient rooms. 

Paint with odor-eliminating technology can help dissipate unpleasant smells of an organic origin. When airborne odor molecules come into contact with a surface painted with this technology, the foul-smelling compound is broken down, and the dried coating neutralizes and reduces the odor. This of course is dependent on the concentration, the frequency of exposure and the amount of surface area painted.

Mold and Mildew

Mold is a rapidly reproducing microscopic fungus that feeds on decomposing organic matter. It can grow on wood, carpet, foods, insulation and almost anywhere moisture and oxygen are present.

According to the CDC, mildew is a serious health threat. In seemingly healthy people, exposure to mildew can trigger asthma and allergies. Coatings with anti-microbial agents can help combat this problem on the surface and provide a proactive solution. Anti-microbial agents are formulated in the paint to inhibit the growth of mold and mildew on the paint surface and to inhibit the growth of bacterial odors. 

Spread of Bacteria

The spread of certain disease-causing bacteria is a big concern in hotel spas, gyms and fitness centers, assisted living communities, multifamily properties and many commercial, health-care and educational buildings.

Microbicidal paint gives professionals a new tool with the power to kill certain bacteria on painted surfaces, thanks to an active ingredient called "quaternary ammonium compound." Commonly known as "quat," the compound has proven bacteria-killing capabilities.

For example, Paint Shield Microbicidal Interior Latex Paint is the first EPA-registered microbicidal paint that kills greater than 99.9 percent of Staph (Staphylococcus aureus), MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), E. coli (Escherichia coli), VRE (vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis) and Enterobacter aerogenes within two hours of exposure on painted surfaces.

The effectiveness of this microbicidal paint lasts up to four years - provided the integrity of the surface is maintained. The specially formulated coating is an important tool to help prevent the spread of harmful bacteria on painted surfaces and promote better air quality.

*Claims or positions expressed by sponsoring authors do not necessarily reflect the views of TPC, Durability + Design or its editors.

Rick Watson, Sherwin-Williams

Rick Watson, director of Product Information and Technical Services, has been with Sherwin-Williams for 31 years. He began his career in the Management Training Program before progressing through a number of roles of greater responsibility, including professional coating sales rep, store manager, product information team leader and product information manager.



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