Toxins in Paint

The solvent emissions in a gallon of paint are up to ninety percent less compared to twenty-five years ago, However, most paints still contain harmful fumes if inhaled or absorbed. In fact, most of us are unaware of the effects that one coat of paint may have. Low levels of vapours from either formaldehyde, benzene, butane, propane, and fluorinated hydrocarbons found in can or spray paints are released on a daily basis for the first thirty days after application. But even year’s later small amounts of toxic fumes can continue to leak into the air. Over a period, exposure to these fumes can be harmful to the brain.

Another danger is exposure to lead-based paint. Although most lead-based paints have been pulled from markets, over eighty percent of homes built before 1978 still have lead paint in them. Lead is a poisonous heavy metal. If lead-based paint is disturbed by sanding, scraping, or abrading, fumes and particles may be produced. These fumes and paint chips, if inhaled or ingested over time, can cause lead poisoning and change brain chemistry.

What happens to the brain with over-exposure to paint fumes is the destruction of brain cells and disruption in normal brain activity. When toxic paint fumes are inhaled (be aware that paint can soak into the skin and cause the same problems as inhaling the vapours), these toxins target fatty tissues such as the myelin sheath of the brain. Over time, this protective covering of the brain becomes removed, reducing brain cells and damaging axons. Presently, the process of demyelination is irreversible and decreases nervous system activity effecting neurological and behavioural functions. Abnormalities in brain areas are apparent such as, if there is damage to the cerebellum, involved movement can be affected, or if the cerebral cortex is damaged, cognitive dysfunctions can occur. Also, brain-imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can detect lesions or size reduction in areas of the brain including the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and brainstem.

Knowing the potential hazard of exposure to paint fumes, you’ll want to take every precaution with your painting project, big or small. You should always use a respirator when painting and have proper ventilation. It is best to seal off the room or area you are painting to keep fumes from floating into other areas. Wearing thick chemicalresistant gloves is a good way to prevent paint from getting on your hands and toxins absorbing into the skin. Also, you should wear full clothing to prevent further skin exposure, and change your clothes directly after painting.