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English Living

I’m a paint expert; this is why you should use low or no-VOC paint near your child 


For any parent, their baby's safety is their number one priority; they think vigorously about what they eat, what they wear and their quality of sleep. However, what can be forgotten is what they breathe in. Walls, furniture and toys are often coated in paint, some of which could be dangerous to your baby. 

In the past month alone, the search for ‘safe paint for babies’ has increased by 1433%. This tells us that some parents are still confused about what paint they should be using in their home, in particular, the paint that will be used in or near their nursery.


Michael Rolland, paint expert and managing director of The Paint Shed, explains the importance of baby-safe paint and provides examples of recommended paints to use. 

What is baby safe paint?

When it comes to choosing paint that is safe for your baby, there are a number of different factors to take into account that can affect health. 

The chemicals in the paint are one thing, as they can be harmful if consumed by babies. The odour that paint gives off is one of the main risk factors when it comes to high VOC paint. This can cause nasty chemicals that turn into paint vapour before being breathed in. It can come from your newly painted walls, furniture or even toys you have bought your child.

Effects of breathing in paint fumes

Paint fumes can be toxic to anyone, but in particular, babies. Using paints that are full of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can have serious damaging side effects on your baby. If exposed to extreme levels for a prolonged period can result in paint fume poisoning, common symptoms include:

  • Coughing

  • Nausea

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat

  • Loss of coordination and dizziness

  • Allergic skin reaction

  • Fatigue and memory loss

  • Breathing difficulties

Research has shown that babies who sleep in rooms with paint fumes containing high VOCs are around 50 to 100% more likely to suffer from asthma or allergies. If you have used a paint with high VOCs, you should pre-plan in advance an alternative sleeping arrangement and ensure you close off the room, and don’t let any of the fumes travel into the rest of your home. If you are expecting a baby, a good idea would be to decorate the room well in advance of your arrival date, this way you can be sure that any harmful paint fumes have been removed. 

More serious symptoms, such as soreness and breathing issues, should be seen by a medical professional. They will advise the next port of action and give relief.


If you have to use paint with high VOCs, it is important that you thoroughly ventilate the room first. Open all windows to allow the paint fumes to escape. If this process is too slow, add a fan to your room to encourage it.


Paints that are safe for babies

  • Water or Natural Paints

When looking at what paint to use in your home or what paint has been used on your child's toys and furniture, water or natural paints are a great option. They don’t contain any volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which means they have a lower level of odour. Because of this, your child will breathe in fewer paint fumes, which is good for their respiratory system. It also reduces the hassle of trying different methods to eliminate that unwanted paint smell.

  • Non-VOC Paint

As mentioned above, using paints with no volatile organic compounds is important for your baby's breathing. Paints with high VOCs, such as ethylene glycol, toluene, formaldehyde and benzene, can cause significant health risks when inhaled over a long period of time. If your baby is in a room with that paint on their walls, furniture or toys, it could cause serious problems.

The main criticism often aimed at non-VOC paint is its typically higher cost compared to conventional paint. However, the advantages to one's health far surpass the additional expenses. Furthermore, these paints provide the reassurance that your baby is living in a safe environment devoid of any potential health hazards.

  • Low-VOC Paint

An alternative choice is a low-volatile organic compound paint. While it doesn't achieve the same level of ideal composition, it does present reduced health hazards compared to conventional paint. Additionally, it comes at a slightly lower cost than fully non-VOC paint, making it a more viable option if you're working within a budget. If you are on the hunt for baby safe paint then Little Greene is a great option. Their paints are developed with babies and children in mind meaning their vast range of water based paints have virtually zero VOC content and are practically odourless. 

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