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Painting Project Tips: Minimizing Exposure to VOCs & Paint Fumes

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Published on Jul 10, 2014

Indoor painting projects in a home, multi-tenant complex, school or business can create health concerns for anyone exposed to paint odors and fumes. Paints contain various chemicals, including many that have volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that easily evaporate into the surrounding air.

Exposure to paint fumes can cause a variety of health concerns for building occupants. These can vary greatly and as with any chemical exposure, the likelihood of a reaction and the extent and type of health effects will depend on many factors. These may include the amount of chemicals in the air, the length of time a person is exposed, and a person's age, pre-existing medical conditions and individual susceptibility. Eye and throat or lung irritation, headaches, dizziness and vision problems are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to paint fumes.

There are steps that can be taken to minimize exposure to paint fumes during indoor painting projects, they include the following:

• Select paints labeled for indoor use when painting indoors and be sure to read the instructions
• Select water-based paints when possible and look for paints that are labeled as low odor and low or zero VOC emitting
• When possible, schedule painting projects during dry periods and when temperatures allow doors and windows to be left open. Leave them open for 2 to 3 days to maintain cross ventilation and mount fans to exhaust vapors
• Schedule projects for times when the painted areas and other parts of the building that are in close proximity are not going to be utilized
• In multi-tenant complexes, inform neighbors before the project begins so that any "shared" air between units can be addressed
• Take frequent breaks while painting for fresh air
• When finished, be sure to close the paint container tightly to prevent additional fumes from escaping into the indoor air
• Avoid the painted area for several days and keep children and those who suffer from respiratory issues away.

These are just a few painting project tips to help reduce exposure to fumes and ways to minimize indoor air quality (IAQ) issues during painting projects. To learn more about this or other indoor air quality, health and safety, occupational or environmental issues, please visit the websites shown in the video.

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