Stuck inside for so long, it may seem like your place needs a fresh coat of paint. A new color has the ability to transform your room and is an easy, beginner-friendly renovation task. Nobody wants to replace flooring as a first-timer. Although painting may seem deceptively simple, it important to take proper preventative steps to protect your health and wellness. Without addressing the downsides, paint fumes can cause severe short-term side effects, which can spiral into serious health concerns when left unaddressed.
What is in paint fumes?
The process that causes you to smell paint is the same in new cars. The newly minted plastic materials, adhesives leak organic material through a process known as off-gassing. In your home, when the paint dries from a liquid into a solid layer, portions of the paint evaporates. You may have noticed that wet paint smells much stronger than dry paint, and this is why. Although you may not smell the paint fumes after 3-5 days, there is a question as to whether the paint still emits harmful vapors that are not detectable with the human nose.
If you did not purchase indoor paint without VOCs, then these volatile organic compounds will certainly leak and linger in the air.
Beware – Even if you are not painting a room, simply using model paint or other hobby paint can also emit troubling levels of VOCs. Paints, solvents, and resins all have the ability to offgas VOCs and cause respiratory problems.
The solvents present in paint can emit a variety of VOCs, including:
- Propylene glycol
- Glycol ethers
When is it safe to go back to a freshly painted room?
Two to three days should be enough for the paint to dry. Check to make sure there is adequate air flow allowing the fumes to escape. Even after several days, consider further air purification measures such as a HEPA filter attached to a box fan. Children, the elderly, and those with breathing conditions should proceed with caution. It is best to consider painting projects outside of extreme temperature seasons such as winter and summer. The conditions should be mild enough to allow open windows and fans.
The type of paint used determines the level of fumes lingering in your space. A paint that is more caustic will linger for longer. Always consult your paint professional and ask for paints made for indoor use that are VOC free. A landlord or building manager may be able to advice on the ideal paint for your buildings structure. The wrong paint could seep fumes into a neighboring unit.
Prevent the Negative Effects of Paint Fumes
It may seem ridiculous to wear a respirator mask to paint a single room. But the chemicals in paint can cause immediate side effects such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, eye watering, dizziness, uncontrollable coughing, and shortness of breath. Immediate problems related to breathing can be addressed by leaving the room and getting fresh air immediately, as recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). People who paint for a living, or as a hobby must consider adequate respiratory protection. Chronic exposure can cause severe lung damage and lead to cancer liver, and kidney problems. Read about more respirator masks ratings and filters here.
Whether you picked up painting as a hobby or are making use of a spare room, protecting your lungs and the health of those around you from toxic chemicals should be your first priority. At Harmony, we have over 16+ years providing people with the safety gear and resources they need to stay protected and prepared. N95 Respirators and other Respiratory Protection such as P95 and P100 masks are all available in stock ready to ship.
Justin Hines is an author at Harmony Supply Blog. With over a decade of experience working with cleanrooms, controlled environments, and industrial manufacturers, Justin Hines provides content to Harmony Lab & Safety Supplies.