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Beware: Two things: lead and toxins. If your house was built before 1978, your walls could be full of lead -- paint, that is. Chipping or peeling paint can be ingested by infants and children, which may lead to serious health problems. Also, paints and finishes release low-level toxic emissions into the air, even years after you applied it. These toxic emissions are called VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. They’re so toxic you can smell them. If you’ve ever painted a room, you know what they smell like.

Take Care: Lead in paint was banned in 1978 and is no longer sold. If you’re worried about lead, have your home tested and then seal any traces of lead paint with a fresh coat of nonlead paint. Until recently, VOCs were essential to the performance of the paint. Now, low- and no-VOC paints are available from mainstream and eco-friendly companies nationwide. For cost-effective, low-VOC wall color, try a shade from Benjamin Moore’s Eco Spec® and Aura® paint lines.

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