A Guide to Green Paint Certifications
Look for logos that verify sustainability
Green Seal – GS- 11 Paints and Coatings
This standard addresses product performance, environmental, and health require-
ments with an emphasis on low VOC content.
Certified products protect indoor air quality by avoiding restricted chemicals, requiring
a strict accuracy test to measure VOCs, and including expanded consumer education
criteria. It also limits the allowable VOC levels for base paint and colorants, ensuring even
heavily tinted paints will remain in compliance.
Hazardous air pollutants, heavy metals, and ozone-depleting compounds are
prohibited, as are carcinogens, mutagens, and reproductive toxins.
The standard also requires that packaging cannot contain heavy metals or phthalates
and must include at least 20% recovered material.
Master Painters Institute – MPI Green Performance Standard for Paints and Coatings
The Green Performance Standards were established to challenge the thinking that
VOC levels alone should determine a green coating. They encompass performance and
durability in addition to environmental friendliness.
The MPI Green Performance Standard (GPS-1-12) requires that VOC concentrations
shall not exceed those listed by the EPA Reference Test Method 24. Standard GPS- 2-12
provides for a maximum allowable limit of 50 g/L of VOCs.
The standards also list 26 chemicals a product cannot contain. These include
phltalates, mercury, formaldehydes, antimony, vinyl chloride, methyl ethyl or isobutyl
ketone, and cadmium.
UL Environment – GREENGUARD Emission Criteria
GREENGUARD is an emissions certification with ingredient thresholds. For example,
total VOCs cannot exceed 0.5 mg/m and formaldehyde must be less than 0.05 ppm.
Manufacturers must also submit a list of measured carcinogens and reproductive
toxins as identified by California Proposition 65, the U.S. National Toxicology Program
(NTP), and the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC).
Any pollutant regulated as a primary or secondary outdoor air pollutant must meet a
concentration that will not generate an air concentration greater than that promulgated
by the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, which is part of the EPA’s Clean Air Act.
Scientific Certification Systems – SCS Indoor Advantage Gold
The SCS Indoor Advantage certification program evaluates products for Chronic Refer-
ence Exposure Levels (CRELS). CRELs are concentrations below which adverse health
effects are unlikely to occur from long-term exposure to hazardous airborne substances.
For a product to qualify, its estimated VOC concentrations for classrooms and offices
must not exceed half of the CREL concentrations, with the assumption that other
products in a building may also be sources of the same compounds. These thresholds
are based on California’s Office of Environmental Health, South Coast Air Quality
Management District, and CA Special Environmental Section 01350.
Not sure which
chemicals may cause
health issues and are
routinely prohibited by
Green Seal, SCS, MPI,
Triphenyl or tributyl tins
Methyl ethyl or isobutyl
Paint comes in every color under the sun, but sometimes unsightly ingredients hide within its jewel-toned hues. If you want to ensure refreshing your walls won’t produce fumes that
are detrimental to occupants, consider specifying paint with a third-party certification.
These organizations have created green standards to authenticate performance, toxicity
levels, and environmental claims.