Paint is easy
to apply. Its hundreds of colors and shades will help you express
your own taste and creativity. At just pennies per square foot,
it's the least expensive decorating tool of all.
And it not only
beautifies your home and possessions it protects them.
If you're planning
a painting project, while you're helping protect your belongings,
the paint industry wants to help you protect yourself as well.
Like many household products, paint contains chemicals, and some
of them can be hazardous if not used correctly.
Paints are mixtures
of pigments (for color), resins (for binding power), and other
additives (surfactants) to make them easier to apply, faster-drying,
etc. These ingredients are dissolved in either water or organic
latex ) paints came on the market soon after World War II. Today,
around 80 percent of household paints, exterior as well as interior,
are water-based. The increasing popularity of water-based formulations
has gone a long way toward reducing the potential hazards from
improper use of solvent-based paints: flammability or combustibility,
and possible health effects from inhaling solvent vapors or spray
Chances are that
the paint you buy will be water-based. But some kinds of products
cannot be successfully formulated using water, and still contain
organic solvents. You need to know the potential hazards associated
with those products, and how to avoid them. The label will tell
Paint Can Label
The first item on a precautionary label is a signal word, such
as WARNING or CAUTION. Directly underneath will be a statement
of the principal hazard, followed by any other hazards associated
with the product's ingredients. Below the hazard information,
you will see the precautions you need to take (such as Open all
doors and windows during use. ). The precautions are followed
by first-aid instructions in case of an accident, and by any
special instructions for storage, cleaning up spills, or even
disposing of leftover paint.
Some paints contain flammable or combustible materials. If so,
the label will read Warning: Flammable or Caution: Combustible.
In either case, you need to take these precautions:
- Open all windows
and doors to increase ventilation and disperse fumes. (Don't
use an electric fan, which could create sparks.)
- Eliminate all
sources of flame, sparks, and ignition. Put out pilot lights
by turning off the gas, and do not relight until well after the
room is free of fumes.
- Don't smoke.
- Don't use electrical
equipment that could spark.
- Make sure light
bulbs aren't exposed to sudden breakage.
- Clean up any
spills promptly, and dispose of the spilled paint and rags or
other cleanup materials safely.
- Keep cans closed
when not in use.
Overexposure to ingredients in some paints can cause health problems.
Sometimes those problems are noticeable right away (acute effects);
sometimes the reaction to the overexposure isn't observed until
later (chronic effects).
The label will
tell you about any potential health hazards that may be associated
with components of the product, and advise you about ways to
reduce your exposure so you can use the product safely.
Some paints, like many other household products, may be poisonous
if ingested (eaten or drunk). To prevent poisoning, take these
- Keep containers
tightly closed when the product is not in use.
- Keep paints
and other household products out of children's reach.
- Before you open
the can, read the label instructions for first-aid advice in
case of ingestion. (These vary from product to product, depending
on the ingredients.)
- If paint is
swallowed, follow the label instructions and call a doctor or
poison control center.
Overexposure to Solvent Fumes
Prolonged inhalation or skin contact with any hazardous components
in paint products can cause acute effects, such as dizziness,
headache, and nausea. Long-term overexposure to solvents can
cause chronic effects such as brain or nervous system damage.
And if some hazardous components are absorbed into the bloodstream
through contact with the skin, immediate or delayed health effects
You can reduce
exposure in several ways:
- Open all doors
and windows to increase ventilation.
- If your eyes
water or you start to feel dizzy or nauseated, leave the work
area and breathe plenty of fresh air. If discomfort lasts or
you have difficulty breathing, see a doctor.
- If you can't
get enough ventilation in the work area, use a respirator. For
solvent-based paints, make sure your respirator is labeled NIOSH/MSHA
Approved for Organic Vapors. Do not use a simple dust mask; it
won't protect you against solvent vapors!
- Wear a long-sleeved
shirt and long paints, splash goggles, and butyl-rubber gloves
to protect your hands (they will make cleanup easier, too).
- If you get paint
on your skin, immediately wash it off immediately with plenty
of soap and water.
- If you get paint
in your eyes, flush them with cold water for 15 minutes, and
get medical treatment.
Your Family When Renovating Your Home
Today's household paints do not contain lead but if you are working
in an older home (built in 1978 or earlier), there is a chance
that there may be old lead-based paint on walls or trim. If lead-based
paint is in good condition (not chipping or peeling), and if
it isn't on a friction surface, such as the places where windows
slide up and down, it isn't hazardous unless it's disturbed by
sanding or scraping or other renovations, which can result in
of Leftover Paint Safely
When you buy your paint, ask the salesperson to help you figure
out how much you need, based on the size of the room or rooms,
number of doors and windows, and the number of coats you plan
won't end up with more paint than you need but if you do, be
sure you know how to get rid of it in a way that won't hurt the
are beginning to include safe-disposal instructions with other
information on their labels. Except in California, Washington
and Minnesota, latex (water-based) paints are considered nonhazardous.
They can be mixed with absorbent material and, when dried out,
can be disposed of with your regular trash.
If you have to
dispose of solvent- or oil-based paint (or latex if you live
in one of the three states named above), you should save the
paint, tightly covered, for disposal in a household hazardous
waste collection program.
tip: Consider giving your leftover paint to your neighbor, church,
school, or other community organization such as an amateur theater
group and recycling the cans in a steel can recycling program.
If you bought
your paint in large containers (five-gallon or larger) and there
are babies or toddlers in your home, don't be tempted to reuse
the containers as buckets for household cleaning. Very small
children can fall headfirst into those buckets, and drownings
A FINAL WORD:
Today's consumer paints are safer and easier to use than ever
before, and most of the precautions concerning their safe use
are simply common sense like turning off the electricity before
you start to fix a light switch. So before you begin your project,
read all the directions on the label, follow them carefully and
enjoy your new paint job!
2000-2002 © National Paint & Coatings Association