Published on August 28th, 2008 | by Sean Daily
GTR: Non-Toxic Paints for Green Homes with Mythic Paint
GreenTalk Radio Host Sean Daily discusses safe, environmentally friendly paints for residential use with Rocky Prior, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Mythic Paint.
Sean Daily: Hi and welcome to GreenTalk, a pod cast series from
Greenlivingideas.com. GreenTalk helps listeners in their efforts to
lead more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors,
authors, and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical
issues facing the global environment today as well as the technologies,
products, and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area
of your life.
Sean Daily: Hey everybody welcome to another episode of GreenTalk
radio, this is Sean Daily, CEO of Greenlivingideas.com, always happy to
be here with you. And today we are going to be talking about a topic we
have talked on the program before about which is environmentally
friendly paints, non-toxic paints, all things related to painting in
green building which is a very important topic within the umbrella of
green living and today my guest to talk on that topic is Rocky Prior.
He is President and Chief Scientific Officer of Mythic Paints. Rocky,
welcome to the program.
Rocky Prior: Thanks for having me Sean.
Sean Daily: It’s our pleasure and I guess, tell me the story, I have
heard quite a bit about Mythic Paints lately and I wanted to here sort
of from you, straight from the top, tell us the story of the company
and how it got started.
Rocky Prior: Sure, absolutely. The brand of product that we carry
is Mythic Paint, but the name of our company is Southern Diversified
Products and we are called that because we started in affiliation with
the University of Southern Mississippi. Their Polymer Science
department in Hattiesburg, Mississippi is a world renowned polymer
research center and there they work on green technologies and state of
the art polymer developments. And one of those polymer developments
led one of the chief scientists there to think about the application in
paint and coatings. And so he started a company and I am one of the
four founders of that company, Southern Diversified Products. Our
offices are actually located across the street from the university and
we have a very strong partnership with the university for product
development. That led to some breakthrough products that allowed us to
actually make high performance architectural coatings that don’t have
any toxic materials in them.
Sean Daily: Ok, and so this is, so, give a sort of compare and
contrast, we hear a lot about low-VOC, no VOC, and then the toxicity
factor. Is that really what we are talking about when we’re talking
about the volatile organic compounds? Is that sort of the summation of
the toxicity that exists in most standard paints?
Rocky Prior: It’s a large portion of it. So, when we talk about VOCs
or volatile organic compounds, almost all coatings sold today have
those materials in them and typically a consumer would know those by
the trade name of solvents. And typically latex paints contain solvents
to improve performance, improve film formation, and so on. They have
been used for years and another word that is typically used in the
coatings industry for those is temporary plasticizers, because they are
meant to essentially provide elasticity to the film while it is
drying. And that new paint smell that you smell are the solvents
coming out of the film. Unfortunately, the solvents contribute to
ground level ozone and that is why they are regulated heavily by the
Environmental Protection Agency. But, no one has really been thinking
about the contribution of those solvents, negative contribution, to
health and that’s where our company comes in. Most of the solvents in
coatings today are carcinogenic or cause other health related issues
and so we don’t use any of those materials. But, you can also have
materials in your paint that are not VOCs that are also carcinogens.
For example, there is a pigment called crystalline silica that is
widely used in the coatings industry. If that material is sanded or
put into a very fine mist form and you breathe it in it’s a suspected
carcinogen as well. So, it doesn’t have to be a volatile organic
compound to be a carcinogen. What we have done is removed all of those
materials from our paint and coatings.
Sean Daily: Okay, that’s interesting. So basically, is it, would be
it fair to say or characterize Mythic Paints as going a little bit
father than the average paint company with regards to that? I mean is,
are other companies actually removing all the toxins like that? Is
that pretty common in the industry these days or does that sort of make
you guys special?
Rocky Prior: You know, I think the trend in the entire industry is
towards lower VOC. Now, when we use the term low VOC, unfortunately
there is no real rule of thumb for that. Somebody could use 50 grams
per liter, someone else could have 150 grams per liter and they call
Sean Daily: There is no standard, industry standards around that? No sort of uh…
Rocky Prior: There isn’t. There is a legislation that says it has to
be below a certain level, but there’s no standards around the
terminology for low and so therefore you are really not quite sure what
you are getting. And the other thing is that the typical approach used
by the coatings industry to get to low or zero VOC is to take existing
paint formulations and just remove the volatile organic compounds and
replace them with something. So, it’s kind of a remove and replace
type of formulation approach. Whereas we started really with a blank
sheet of paper, started from the ground up, so we built our system a
little differently. The trade off in the past has always been, I mean,
virtually every paint company has a low or zero VOC paint and the issue
with those is that they, how they lack in performance. That is why
they are not their mainstream product, they are always a subset of
their product. So, all of the major brands will have a low or zero VOC
paint, but you will notice that it is not sold as their first line
paint, and that is because it lacks in performance. What our company
set out to do and was successful in accomplishing was to remove the
VOCs and toxic materials, but maintain or exceed the performance of
paints that have those materials in them. So that, you know, you will
find other zero VOC paints, you will find other paints classified as
non-toxic, for example milk paint a casein based paint. But that paint
really completely lacks any type of durability. So we have combined
the attributes of zero VOC, non-toxic, but the high performance
attribute. So we give you all of the scrub durability, coverage
durability, and so on that you would find in a premium product, like
ours, but without any of the off -gassing. And what that means to you
as a consumer immediately is a very, very low odor product. When you
put it on the wall you will notice a huge difference in odor, as soon
as the product dries there is no odor because there is no off-gassing.
The solvents that are used in paint coatings can off-gas for a long
period of time. There are studies that show that that material
off-gasses maybe 50% in the first year and then for years after that.
So, your exposure to those solvents hangs around awhile. In case the
listeners are wondering, you know, the terminology we use is grams per
liter in the industry. So, we’ll say low-VOC is 50 grams per liter and
the listener might not understand. You know, a gram per liter, to put
that in layman’s terms, a nickel that you would spend at the store
weighs 5 grams, exactly. So if you think about the weight of 10
nickels in solvent. That’s how much solvent is in a liter of paint. As
we know there are almost 4 liters in a gallon, so if you take that
analogy on out for 50 gram per liter paint, you would have 10 times 4,
you would have 40 nickels in weight, so you can imagine how heavy that
is, in solvent, so you can imagine how heavy that is in solvent, in a
low VOC paint that’s going to come out into the air that you breathe.
So it’s a significant quantity even in the low-VOC coatings that are
Sean Daily: I appreciate that comparison because that does make it a
little more real. You hear a lot about these things and it’s kind of
hard to envision it unless you are really into dry and wet measurements
and things. You remember your schooling.
Rocky Prior: Exactly, exactly,
Sean Daily: Great, well, we’re going to take a quick break. I am
talking with Rocky Prior with Mythic Paint, Mythic Paints and you can
find them online at www.mythicpaint.com and we will be right back on
GreenTalk Radio. Hang on everybody.
Sean Daily: Okay and we are back on GreenTalk Radio. We are talking
on environmentally friendly and non-toxic paints today. My guest is
Rocky Prior, he is the President and Chief Scientific Officer of Mythic
Paints at mythicpaint.com. Rocky, we were talking before the break
about the basics of what exactly, both what Mythic Paint does, as well
as low-VOC and what VOCs in paints are and what the issues are in terms
of environmental health and human health. I am curious to hear a
little bit about, I notice that you got started on this sort of at a
time when this was off the radar screen, I think, for most people, even
in the building industry back in 1991. Can you tell me a little about
why you were so interested in low-VOCs paints and that area when it was
still kind of unknown?
Rocky Prior: Sure, I come by it honestly. I was working for another
large coatings company at the time and they had a mandate to reduce
VOCs in their coatings, so I actually worked on a project to reduce the
VOCs down to zero in coatings. As I was working on that we were
expecting our second child and after she was born she was diagnosed
with childhood asthma and also allergies and I recognized, I like to
paint at home because it’s the business I was in. But I could never
paint her room and have her sleep in it for quite a long time because
of the off-gassing that was occurring and so I felt like you know
there’s really, there has to be a way to get the performance in these
coatings and reduce the VOCs. So I worked in that area, my father has
also been involved in environmental affairs. He was Director of
Environmental Affairs for a very large chemical company and was always
letting me know the importance of reducing emissions and pollutants.
In face his license plate on his car was For Clean Air, so I have some
things in my background to combine with my chemistry degree that said,
you know, this has to be possible. And it benefit’s a lot of people,
as well as the environment simultaneously.
Sean Daily: That’s a neat story, I appreciate you sharing that and
it’s interesting to me, I have interviewed literally hundreds of guests
on this program and on others that I have done and it’s interesting
especially with regards to the environmental movement and things
related to it that I would say almost literally 7-8 times out of 10
there is, children are involved somehow in the stories of people who
founded these companies and are behind them. So, very interesting.
I’m curious, just switching gears a little bit here. I want to go back
you touched on the topic of durability in these types of paints which
is something that comes up quite a bit when we are talking about
anything that is an alternative type of product, paints or anything
else. You know, the performance, how is the performance being
effected, is it being effected and that’s not even counting price,
which maybe we can get to that a little bit later. But just durability
in paints I know that with some of the low-VOC no VOC that durability
has been called into question in some cases. I have sort of a two part
question here. How do we test for durability in paints and how do
Mythic’s paints stand up in terms of a durability as a non-toxic paint.
Rocky Prior: Sure, great questions. When we are talking about
durability inside, for your walls, typically people want the walls to
be able to remove stains easily like around switch plates and in kids
rooms. And to do so you would scrub the wall with a soap solution and
in the laboratory setting all coatings companies test for durability
the same way. They use something called ASTM scrub resistance method
and we use a special machine, it has a brush on it and some abrasive
scrub solution and we put that on our dried coating which is a highly
specified test panel where every coating is applied at the same
thickness and so on so that the test is always uniform and we run the
test until the scrub brush actually literally removes the coating from
the film and then you record the number of cycles that that took. The
higher the number the better, of course. And in both our internal
testing as well as independent laboratory testing we have not found a
product that can beat us in that test. That includes high-VOC coating
and low-VOC coatings. So, it’s a well recognized test, it’s the same
test that’s run by Consumer Reports and all of the coatings companies
that are out there.
Sean Daily: Ok, well, ok so then, in that case I should ask are you
saying that there is basically no sacrifices that you have to make in
order to sort of have a healthier environment in regards to painting?
Rocky Prior: That’s correct, that’s what we are saying.
Sean Daily: Okay, interesting, okay well then let me ask the last
question which I asked about price because that would be, that’s a big
issue right now with cost of going green. We’re seeing it in the news,
we’re seeing it on TV. A large number of the visitors that we have to
the greenlivingideas.com website are interested, or have concerns about
how much more does it cost. Of course it’s industry dependent. Can
you speak to that with regards to your industry and what the price
premium if any is that people are paying to use these types of products?
Rocky Prior: Sure in this particular place we are branded as a
painting product because of our performance, not because of the fact
that we’re green. That puts us right in the middle of other premium
products and what I mean by that is if you go to your independent paint
store that you would know in town, it could be something like a Bob’s
Paint and Wallpaper or an Ace or a True Value or somebody who carries
independent brands of paint and premium brands of paint, you’ll find
that we are priced very competitively. We are not an inexpensive
product, though, again that’s because we’ve built the extra performance
in the product. The other thing to mention about our paints is that
they are available in any color, we can custom color match to any color
and we didn’t talk on this at all, but we should touch on it very
briefly. Colorants that are used in paints typically contain very high
levels of VOC, in fact it’s not uncommon at all to double the amount of
VOCs in paint just from tinting them and our colorants do not have VOCs
either. So we can give you any color, including a competitor color in
a healthy solution.
Sean Daily: Good, good. Well, we’re going to take one more break
here and then we’ll be back. I have a few more questions for you
Rocky. I want to talk about certifications and a few other things. But
we’ll be right back on GreenTalk Radio. We’re going to get a quick
word from our sponsor. Thanks everybody.
Sean Daily: And we are back on GreenTalk Radio. Welcome back
everyone. We have been talking with Rocky Prior, who is the President
and Chief Scientific Officer of Mythic Paints. I love that title, by
the way, Chief Scientific Office, it’s like Spock on Star Trek or
something. Beam me up.
Rocky Prior: Thank you, thank you.
Sean Daily: And I should also mention that Mythic Paints, you can
find them online at www.mythicpaint.com. Rocky we were talking before
the last break about, you know, sort of having a healthy environment,
durability in paints. I wanted to switch gears a little bit to talk
about certifications. I notice that Mythic Paints doesn’t have any
green seals, or green logo certifications attached to your brand Can
you tell me about that? That’s a little unusual.
Rocky Prior: Yeah, we actually opted not to go that route. We have
a sister product in the market called American Pride Paint, which has
those certifications on it. But we opted not to with Mythic, and the
reason why is that the performance standards for the green, you know
the different green approvals that are out there are traditionally
very, very low. The bar is low to allow a lot of green paints to get
that certification and what we found with our consumer research is that
if we put that seal on our Mythic can that the consumer automatically
assumes parity with the other green paint that is out there with that
Sean Daily: I see.
Rocky Prior: We really hurt ourselves from a performance standpoint
because we’re still not getting our message across So the way we
market and sell Mythic is very, very different from the typical green
paint. We sell it based on it’s performance. That’s how we start
selling it. We sell it as if you’re looking for a great paint this is
it. Oh, by the way, it’s non-toxic, it’s safe for pets, it’s safe for
the earth, it’s safe for humans. So, it’s a little different approach.
Sean Daily: Yup, so, I had gotten, we had, the reason we found out
about Mythic was from one of our website visitors, believe it or not,
who said you guys really need to be talking to Mythic Paint. So we
said, oh, let’s check these guys out. So we have researched you guys
quite a bit before bringing you on the program. One of the things I
had read in a press release was that you are currently the fastest
growing paint company in the country. Is that correct?
Rocky Prior: Yes, we are.
Sean Daily: Yeah, well congratulations on that.
Rocky Prior: Thank you very much.
Sean Daily: I’m curious, I mean that sort of speaks outside of
Mythic, that this is such a growing industry. What do you think that
this is really saying about the publics attitude about healthy homes? I
mean are we seeing a change?
Rocky Prior: Yeah, I think that people have always been concerned
about creating a healthy environment. But, certainly the public is
becoming more and more educated about everything from flooring choices
to wall coverings, to paints about what they are actually having in
their homes. That, you know, the homes are built tighter today, they
are very air tight. We need to make sure that we are using materials
that don’t off-gas a lot of material negatively into the air. So, I
think that that is the key driver for it, but I would also say that
we’ve just touched a nerve. That as the public becomes more and more
educated, they see a product like Mythic and they just naturally
migrate towards it. We have been very pleased with our success and the
fact that the message is resonating.
Sean Daily: How are you guys selling your products? Are you selling
through standard paint stores or are you selling direct or what’s the
Rocky Prior: We sell through independent paint channel, which is
some of the stores I mentioned. Ace Hardwares, True Values,
independent paint stores. Most towns have their own special
independent store there. We are actively pursuing and closing on those
account and putting our product in. If we don’t have the paint
available in your city yet, you can find that out at Mythic Paint.com
by putting in your zip code and it will show you if there is a dealer
in your area yet. If we don’t have one yet you can purchase the paint
online, again tinted to any color. It’s a very simple process. If you
do have a dealer in your area, though, the website will not allow you
to purchase paint. It will send you to that dealer, of course because
we really want to help the environment, not be shipping paint any
further than we have to and also support our local retailer.
Sean Daily: Sounds great. So, Rocky we’re about out of time for
today’s program. I wanted to offer you an opportunity to leave our
listeners today with some thoughts. Maybe any tips or advice you have
in terms of building a healthy home environment from your experience
and any sort of final thoughts about things you want people to know
about what Mythic does.
Rocky Prior: Sure, appreciate that very much, appreciate the
opportunity to be on your program. My advice would be to use the
internet and do your research before you go buy the products that you
are going to be using inside of your home. I think that would apply to
any type of product that you are going to use and we think that you’ll
be pleasantly surprised, that the more you scratch the surface of our
company, I think the more excited you’ll be about the product that we
have developed and even down to the way that we manufacture it in a
zero discharge facility. So, we care about human health and safety and
the environment. We really appreciate the support that we have been
getting from everybody out there.
Sean Daily: Great, well, we wish you much continued success with
Mythic Paint and we love to see companies like yours doing well because
it really speaks to the whole industry. I think to increase home
environment, which is so critical, as we all know. So, and I want to
make one cross reference for anyone listening in today. If you are
interested in this topic go on the greenlivingideas.com website and go
under the topics menu under green building and remodeling, we have a
whole section dedicated to painting as well as just about every other
green building topic. So, we certainly encourage you to go there. I
thank everyone for listening today and I want to thank my guest, Rocky
Prior. Again, he is the President and Chief Scientific Officer of
Mythic Paint and they are online at www.mythicpaint.com . Rocky, thanks
Rocky Prior: Thank you, Sean.
Sean Daily: Thanks as always to everyone listening in today.
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