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How Toxic Paint Chemicals Impact Your Health


When you open a can of paint, the first thing you notice is that classic new paint smell. The odor fills the air while you're painting a room and lingers for a few days until the paint has fully dried. Most people accept it as a regular part of the painting process. But have you ever wondered what kind of ingredients cause that odor in the first place?

Traditional paint is made from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can pollute the air, cause negative side effects and even trigger allergic reactions. If you've ever wondered why you feel dizzy or nauseated after inhaling paint fumes, it's because you're experiencing the negative VOC health effects. Despite this, VOCs are completely legal and make up a large percentage of ingredients in paint brands.

VOC health effects aren't necessarily fatal, but they can have a number of short- and long-term effects. These ingredients in paint are also toxic to the environment and responsible for a large amount of indoor air pollution. If you've suffered from inhaling paint fumes side effects, maybe it's time to make the switch to a more environmentally friendly product.

What Are Some Examples of VOCs?

When you look at the ingredient list, you'll find several chemicals, pesticides, biocides and preservatives that make up your can of paint. Common VOCs include xylene, formaldehyde, benzene and ethyl acetate. In particular, exterior paints are loaded with fungicides that can protect your home from mold and fungus growth but also give off strong, harmful odors. For this reason, you should never use exterior paint indoors. Interior paint has fewer chemicals, but it's still made with VOCs that contaminate the air while you're painting.

Inhaling Paint Fumes Side Effects

You might experience different side effects depending on the length of your exposure and whether you have any preexisting health conditions. Here's a rundown of the basic side effects:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Throat irritation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Runny nose
  • Difficulty breathing

If you experience any of these side effects from breathing in oil-based paint fumes, step outside and get some fresh air. You'll usually feel better in a matter of minutes.

However, long-term exposure to VOC fumes can cause organ damage, low birth weight and damage to your respiratory system. Children and elderly adults are particularly vulnerable to paint fumes, as well as people with asthma and other chronic respiratory disorders. The paint fumes pollute the air with dangerous chemicals, making it harder to breathe and potentially triggering an asthma attack.

How Long Are Paint Fumes Harmful?

If you've just painted your house, you're probably wondering "How long are paint fumes harmful?" Generally, paint fumes are only harmful when the paint is still wet. Once the paint has dried, you should be able to enter the room without experiencing any negative side effects. You might want to turn on a fan or open a window to encourage fresh air to circulate through the room, releasing some of the VOC chemicals and quickening the drying process.

If you're painting a piece of furniture, consider painting outside so the paint fumes can escape the area. Painting in an enclosed space is a bad idea because the VOC chemicals have nowhere to go.

Are Oil-Based and Latex-Based Paints Equally Harmful?

Generally, oil based paint fumes contain more VOCs than latex paint fumes. Oil paints are made from a base of oil, while latex paints are made from a base of water. However, this doesn't mean that latex based paints are automatically safer. Many latex paint fumes still contain VOCs that contaminate the air and pose a risk to your family's health.

What Should You Look for in a Safe, Environmentally Friendly Paint?

If you check the ingredient list, you'll find that most paints are made from unfamiliar chemicals. The word "chemical" doesn't automatically mean "bad." However, some paints are made from safe, low-VOC chemicals and ingredients that won't pollute the air while you're working. When you're looking for paint for your next project, look for a product that advertises "Low VOC" or "Zero VOC" on the label.

You can also check the ingredients to see if the paint contains any common VOCs. Most reputable paint brands will include a list of ingredients on the label or provide a downloadable list on their website. At Eco Safety Products, we offer safety data sheets, HPD’s (Health Product Declaration), VOC Emissions Test, with more information about the safety of our products so you have everything you need to know to paint with confidence.

While water-based paints aren't automatically safer, they tend to contain fewer chemicals than oil-based paints. The best products are made from plant-based oils and extracts that break down naturally and release fewer chemicals into the air.

What Kinds of Products Does EcoProCote Offer?

EcoProCote offers an extensive range of non-toxic, odor-free paints, sealers and stains. Our product line includes:

We also sell paint tools and safety tape to help you complete your project. Each paint and stain comes with a downloadable safety sheet, so you know exactly what kind of ingredients you're bringing into your home. Every product in our store is made from some of the safest ingredients on the market.

How Do You Order EcoProCote Products?

To order products from our website, sign up for an EcoProCote account. You can add products to your online cart, pay online and have them shipped directly to your house. You can choose your color from virtually any major paint brand and we will do a computerized color match. We offer free shipping for all orders that total $150 or more. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to get in touch with customer service. You can return most items within 30 days of purchase or less.