When we renovated our house in Christchurch, we wanted to make it warm, comfortable and healthy. Pulling up old carpet to reveal beautiful hardwood timber floors was all the rage, and so was polyurethane. But I’d heard that polyurethane isn’t healthy and this concerned us because we were about to have a baby in the house crawling around on the floor. To achieve beautifully finished timber floors without the toxic chemicals, we used BioPaints.
I’d still recommend BioPaint, if for nothing other than the citrus fragrance. More recently, I also came across a similar product – AURO eco paints. I contacted the local supplier and they responded with a great set of answers, not just about why they’ve chosen to import eco paints from Germany, but responses direct from their technical experts at the German plant.
About AURO Eco Paints
These responses come directly from Dr. Lettau at AURO, Germany.
1. Why was the product created?
[Lettau Dr., Markus] The aim was to develop an emission free, physically dry binder. Crude oil based binders show through their chemical drying process a certain emission spectrum which is marked by a strong odour during the drying phase. As crude oil based binders dry very slowly (weeks), metal compounds are used to catalyze. These metal compounds are coming occasionally under [scrutiny]. The new binders have only a very slight odour and during the drying phase there are no emissions. The drying is just physical with water evaporating into the air. The odour of the binder stops during the drying phase (hours).
2. What’s the main problem with regular paint?
[Lettau Dr., Markus] In conventional paints the binder is petrochemical based i.e. produced from crude oil. Often these paints are also advertised as eco paints… Often these binders can be also be emission free, but the raw material base is not natural. Whereas the raw materials used by AURO originate from plants, the conventional ones are made from complex petrochemical conversions.
3. Acrylic, water-based, enamel… what do these actually mean and what do homeowners need to now?
[Lettau Dr., Markus] Acrylic binders are always petrochemical made, [even] when advertised [as] low-emission. The ecological idea is generated by the term “low-emission” and implies it is healthy for [humans]. Nothing is said of the threat to nature. Also water based products [are] not automatically good for the environment, as often petrochemicals are used. Important for the customer is the question where the origin of the binder or paint lies. This is of course difficult without some technical or chemical knowledge. I think good customer advice is important when purchasing and also the fact that information is sought from different shops. Especially with eco paints it is important to seek advice about the different paints on offer.
4. I’ve used biopaints before and they were great to paint with. Are they as tough and as easy to clean as other big brands? (I’ve got kids who make a lot of mess)
[Lettau Dr., Markus] Especially with the new AURO binders natural paints are in no way inferior to conventional paints. Natural paints have often the same technical standard as conventional paints. One should ask a dealer for specific uses.
5. Are VOCs the main health concern with paint, now that lead is mostly gone?
[Lettau Dr., Markus] VOCs are often in discussion nowadays, but also additives like heavy metals need to be considered. There are also dangers e.g. in the use of cobalt salts in higher concentrations. AURO has changed completely its paints and is the only manufacturer now who is not using cobalt salts. Paint should definitely not contain any lead.
There is some confusion about the different views and regulations in different countries e.g. the AgBB in Germany or the French A+ labelling. In respect to VOCs it is often quite difficult to establish comparisons between different countries.
Contrary to other manufactures, not only conventional ones, AURO is always a step ahead in considering the provenance of raw materials and abstains (as far as possible) in the use of crude oil based chemicals.
AURO Eco Paints Locally
1. Why do you do what you do?
It is difficult to find paints free of VOCs and synthetic pollutants (such as isoaliphates, isoparaffines, acrylics, epoxy and polyurethane). For home reservations I did myself over the years, I had to order such products from Germany. Therefore, I believe that there is a market in New Zealand for paints 100% produced from natural raw materials.
2. What’s your biggest challenge for getting into the NZ market?
People are less aware of environmentally friendly products here in New Zealand. Therefore, there is a challenge to sell these kind of products. But people’s perception is changing with more awareness of health and environmental issues of conventional paints.
3. What are you top three recommendations for people when they’re doing decorating or renovating?
- Try to use healthy and environmentally friendly products
- Try to get good comprehensive product information of the products you intend to use i.e. all raw materials are fully declared.
- By buying AURO eco paints and wood finishes, I can 100% guarantee customers that they are getting the best ecological paints out there.