Mythic paint review

Consumer Reports News: May 21, 2009 05:08 PM

Since being launched in 2001 by Southern Diversified Products, Mythic Paint has highlighted the eco-friendliness of its finishes in ads, on packaging, and in marketing materials. The slogan "Safe for People, Safe for Pets, Safe for Earth" appears on its paint cans, and the company's Web site features the statement that "Mythic Paint is a non-toxic, ultra low odor paint that provides the durability and coverage you expect from a premium paint without the off-gassing VOC's and cancer-causing toxins that emit years after drying."

Following a challenge brought by paint maker Valspar, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus found (PDF) that Mythic provided a reasonable basis for those safety and ingredient claims. The NAD did, however, recommend that Mythic's promotional language include clear and conspicuous disclosure of the fact that non-Mythic colorants that might get mixed in by retailers at the point of sale can contain VOCs, or volatile organic compounds.

This recommendation echoes some key findings from our March 2009 report on interior paints. As part of that investigation, we measured the VOC content of finishes that makers maintain have no VOCs and several high scorers from our tests that were marketed with no special claims. We detected VOCs in every paint, including Mythic flat, low-luster, and semigloss finishes.

One reason that claimed no-VOC paints actually have VOCs is because the tints added to untinted bases at the point of purchase can contain VOCs; none of the paints we tested exceeded any applicable government VOC limits. In the case of Mythic, the NAD ruled that any trace amounts of VOC were within the "de minimis" threshold of 5 grams per liter, meaning the paints can be classified as zero-VOC.

The NAD expressed concern over Mythic's claims about higher-VOC paints made by other manufacturers. In particular, the NAD described Mythic's statement that the "toxicity and danger posed by traditional paints is little known among the general population" and that these paints "adversely [affect] air quality inducing depletion of the ozone layer, global warming and the rise of respiratory illness" as "unnecessarily and inaccurately alarmist." While our March 2009 report concluded that "less is always better" when it comes to VOCs, we also acknowledged that the difference between paints with, say, a VOC level of 35 grams per liter and those with two or three times that amount is hard to quantify.

The NAD's final ruling concerned Mythic's claim that it is "the only zero-VOC, zero-carcinogenic, premium quality line of latex paints available." The NAD found that Mythic Paint "provided a reasonable basis for the claim that its product is 'premium' paint" but did not adequately establish that it's the only one of its kind.

The three Mythic paints we tested were all very good overall, though several claimed low-VOC products performed better. In particular, the Mythics faded faster than other claimed low-VOC paints. Among claimed zero-VOC paints, Mythic was the best low-luster product, but trailed Olympic Premium among flat finishes, and Olympic Premium and Freshaire Choice among semigloss finishes.—Daniel DiClerico | | Twitter

Essential information: Read about the EPA's response to our call for updated VOC regulations and test methods.

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