Just how dangerous are VOCs in paint?

Estimated Completion Time
1 min
Just how dangerous are VOCs in paint?
Image: White Packert/Digital Vision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Many people assume that house paint became safe with the omission of lead particles in the late 20th century. How much do you know about these dangerous chemicals? Take this quiz to find out!
When you breathe in VOCs, your body can suffer this effect:
headache
cancer
both
VOCs have a range of noxious side effects, including both the immediate (headache) and the long-term (cancer).

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If you have this type of pre-existing condition, it's especially advisable to steer clear of VOC-containing paints:
asthma
VOCs are dangerous to your respiratory system and can impair breathing, making them especially bad for those with asthma. Special no- and low-VOC paints are increasingly available.
cancer
diabetes

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True or false: Paint can cause cancer.
true
Paint contains dozens to hundreds of VOCs, some of which have been identified as cancer-causing agents, or carcinogens.
false

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A child who grows up in a room coated in VOC-containing paint might have higher risk of developing what?
nosebleeds
diabetes
allergies
Researchers are still unsure why, but new studies have shown a clear link between children living with VOCs and developing allergies.

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VOCs act as a microcosm of the greater Earth because they produce this type of pollutant:
ozone
VOCs in paint can create an artificial layer of ozone in a freshly painted room. Ozone protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation, but direct entry into human lungs can be dangerous.
ammonia
fungus

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Increasing evidence supports the idea that VOCs are especially harmful to what?
humans
the environment
both
VOCs are not even pleasant etymologically. That's why we named them "volatile organic compounds." Their emission into the atmosphere harms your breathing and that of other life-forms, altering the quality of life on the planet.

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If you can't buy low- or no-VOC paint, purchase this type instead:
flat finish (dull) paint
Paint with a flat (or dull) finish releases fewer VOCs than a high-gloss paint, such as eggshell or satin.
eggshell paint
satin paint

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True or false: No-VOC paint is totally harmless.
true
false
Even paint without VOCs can contain toxins harmful to your health. You may never be able to locate a totally innocuous paint; the point is to opt for the healthiest choice you can afford.

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This type of paint takes longest to dry:
regular paint
low-VOC paint
no-VOC paint
VOCs in paint function, partially, to help paint dry more quickly. Because of this, choosing a paint without VOCs could mean that you wait longer for your walls to dry. They might also need additional coats.

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You can expect to pay the most for this type of paint:
regular paint
low-VOC paint
no-VOC paint
No-VOC paint is among the most expensive types because of its low availability relative to regular paint. You might see prices drop in the future if demand and production continue to grow.

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