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Hazardous Elements in Spray Paints and Their Side Effects on Workers’ Health

Spray Paint Cans

Spray paints provide workers with the option to quickly apply thin layers of paint on different materials. This makes production procedures faster. The spray layer could be applied on top of other layers. Of course, after you give the first one enough time to dry out before the next one is applied. The times between layers is relatively short, thanks to the thin spray paint layering. Painting elements with spray paints is vastly used in the automobile industry. With time, the paint wears off, scratches occur and so on. Vehicle owners can refresh the colour of their prized possessions at a professional paint shop.

Sadly, it is not all roses. Spray paints have a couple of downsides, as well. These type of paints contain hazardous elements. Those elements are called VOC’s – Volatile Organic Compounds.

VOC’s in spray paints lacquers and paint strippers:

  • Acetone;
  • Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG);
  • Xylene;
  • n-Butyl acetate;
  • Methyl ethyl ketone;
  • Propylene glycol mono butyl ether;
  • Ethylbenzene;
  • Magnesium silicate;
  • Carbon black

Not all of those chemicals are present in every brand or type of spray paint. The most commonly found chemicals are Acetone, Xylene and Toluene. They could be ingested by inhaling, or through the skin in some cases of exposure. The inhalation of those substances is possible through spray paint fumes. Fumes are generated while spraying the paints with compressed air, or by leaving them in the open. The second condition makes it possible for paints and solvents to simply evaporate in the air and then they can be easily inhaled by workers.

How long are paint fumes harmful

Paint fumes dispersed in the air evaporate quite fast. The time through which they are potentially dangerous to present people depends on the quantity of fumes. It should be noticed that the fumes are intoxicating even in small dosages, so extra attention is required. How long the paint fumes last is also a matter of quantity and concentration. The larger amount of paint being dispersed in the air will leave paint fumes in the room for longer.

Are paint fumes harmful

The toxic fumes from paint could be harmful to your health. In most cases, the negative effects wear off fast. It all depends on how long you were exposed to the fumes. The truth is that the compounds present in some products were not extensively tested. The long term effects of them are still a mystery. For instance, occupational asthma could be a side effect of exposure to paint fumes. So to answer the question “Are paint fumes dangerous?” the simplest and most straight forward answer is “Yes”. You should be aware that long term side effects are not 100% known and you will have to be extremely careful while working with such products.

Paint fumes side effects

In general, spray paint fumes side effects are similar to those from drug intoxication. Including, but not limited to nausea, dizziness, loss of perception, abdominal paint and others. Let list the side effects from the most common VOC’s found in paint fumes.

Acetone – this chemical causes eye irritation, paint fumes headache, dizziness and even depression. It also causes dermatitis, when it comes in contact with your skin. Dermatitis is an irritation of the skin, often on soft tissues, like around the eyes and on the back of the hands. Acetone can also cause damage to the central nervous system, like the above-mentioned depression.

Xylene – the side effects of Xylene are similar to those from Acetone. This toxin is slightly more hazardous. It causes abdominal pain, incoordination, sleepiness and nausea. It also causes dermatitis when in contact with your skin.

Toluene – perhaps, the most toxic of three. Toluene can cause euphoria, dilated pupils, lacrimation, muscle fatigue and insomnia.

All of those chemicals can inflict damage to the eyes, respiratory system, nervous system, liver and kidneys.

How can you protect yourself from the effects of paint fumes

You must wear protective gear when you are working in an environment where spray paint fumes may be present. For instance when you are working in a spray paint booth. In such a workplace you should always wear RPE – Respiratory Protective Equipment. Masks, gloves and full-body suits are often used. The type of mask you wear should be reflected with the chemicals you might be exposed to. Often those masks are accompanied with eye protection, as they should be. For spray paint booths the filtration of paint fumes is covered by a series of filters. Fresh air is constantly being delivered to inside the booth, but you should not remove your protection gear while still being inside!