Modern day paints are complex chemical mixtures of pigments for color, binders that cause paint to adhere to surfaces, and solvents that make the application easier and smoother.
Pigments can contain hazardous materials such as lead, zinc, chromium, titanium dioxide, and silicates, as well as other hazardous substances. Binders can contain alkyd and epoxy resins that are classified as toxic.
Pigments and binders are dissolved in water or solvents, such as naptha, ether, xylene, mineral spirits or alcohol. When the paint is applied, solvents evaporate leaving behind pigments and binders.
The acute or immediate health hazards that can occur from exposure to paints are:
¨ INHALATION – Irritation of the throat and lungs, headaches, dizziness,
disorientation and unconsciousness
¨ EYE CONTACT – Chemical burns, loss of vision
¨ SKIN CONTACT – Irritation
¨ INGESTION – Abdominal pain and nausea
These symptoms will be noticed almost immediately. On the other hand, chronic effects or long term exposure can result
in the following:
¨ INHALATION – Liver or kidney damage
¨ SKIN CONTACT – Dermatitis or “sensitization.” Once sensitization occurs, even the slightest exposure may
result in severe reactions.
Paints containing lead can be harmful if inhaled or ingested. Continual exposure to even small amounts of lead can result
in lead poisoning. Symptoms are headache and dizziness. Marine bottom coatings are typically extremely toxic.
When using paints and associated products:
1. Be sure there is adequate ventilation.
2. Read and follow the Material Safety Data Sheet on the product.
3. Wear a properly fitted respirator and make sure it has the correct cartridge.
4. Wash your hands thoroughly before eating or smoking.
5. Dispose of paints and rags in proper containers.
6. Wear gloves, aprons, safety goggles and barrier creams as appropriate.