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Paint and Health Issues

Painter using a respirator while applying paintThere are two basic types of paint to choose from: water-based paints, often referred to as emulsion paints, and solvent-based paints. High-quality water-based paints offer not just an excellent all-round performance profile, they are also a good choice from a health and environmental perspective. Solvent-based paints, the more traditional type of paint, require users to exercise a degree of caution to avoid risks relating to potential health hazards.

All solvents are potential health hazards, even if toxicity varies from solvent to solvent. Certain solvent properties, and their known effects are specific, others are common to a group. Solvents can penetrate into the human body by three paths:

In residential painting, roughly 80% of paints used today are water-based paints. At the same time regulations continue to drive the VOC’s and resulting emissions lower and lower. Prudent safety practices combining personal protecting equipment while minimizing prolong exposure, significantly minimize any health risk.

Care should be taken to avoid exposure to the usual vulnerable areas:

  • The respiratory tract (by inhaling the vapors)
  • The skin (through unprotected contact)
  • The digestive system (if swallowed in liquid form)

Limited exposure to solvents can be free from harm if under certain thresholds, varying according to the individual solvent. However, the impact of solvents on health should not be underestimated.

Manufacturing guidelines work to help support a healthier painting experience:

• manufacturers must identify ingredients used in paint formulation
• manufacturers and suppliers must develop MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets)

For more details on the safety governance for Coatings and on the health aspects of painting then please visit the OHSA site.

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