Paint Fumes Affect Your Health

How Paint Fumes Affect Your Health

Maybe you want to give your room a fresh look, or you want to just add a bit of life to its rather bland look. Painting a room is usually a great idea. A fresh coat of paint makes you feel you just moved in. And it can give your room the transformation it needs. 

However, there is one thing you have to know about painting. It doesn’t even matter if you are doing the painting yourself or you are employing someone to do it for you. 

As long as you are planning to spend time in the room after the painting, here is one thing you need to know: paint fumes affect your health.

The fumes that emanate from freshly laid paint could cause some damage in the body. This is why professionals recommend that you wear a nose mask if you are doing the painting yourself. They also advise that you stay away from the room for some days after the painting. 

Do you know what is in paint fumes that make them bad for your health?

Why Paint Fumes Are Bad For Your Health?

Paint makers use some chemicals to keep paints in the liquid form. These chemicals start to evaporate after you apply the paint in your room and leave it to dry. 

But among these chemicals, there are some that are harmful to your health. They are called Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs for short, and are released in the form of fumes. Some compounds in the paints that are responsible for emitting these VOCs are toluene, benzene, styrene, and acetone.

You may then wonder, “if these fumes are so bad, why don’t they make paints that don’t emit them?” And your answer is that they make paints that emit lower amounts of VOC. They are called low-VOC paints. 

There are even some paints that are devoid of VOCs. They are no-VOC paints. Also, water-based paints don’t give off as much VOCs as other kinds of paints do. You can keep an eye out for them the next time you are going paint-shopping.

Effects of Paint Fumes On Your Health

Inhaling the VOCs from paint fumes can cause both long-term effects and short-term effects. The short-term effects may include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Irritation of the throat, eyes, or nose
  • Nausea

The painter may experience these symptoms while painting or a short while after painting. If you notice any of these symptoms, the Consumer Product Safety Commission advises you to leave the room immediately. Go to a well-ventilated area and take a break until you are feeling better. 

As for the long-term effects of exposure to VOCs in high concentrations for a long time, they are:

  • Damage to the nervous system
  • Damage to the liver and kidneys.
  • Risk of cancer

While these effects are for everyone, these sets of people have a lot more to lose from exposure to a high concentration of VOCs.

  • Pregnant Women

When pregnant women expose themselves to paint fumes, they are not only risking their health, they are also risking the health of their unborn babies. 

A study showed that congenital anomalies may arise from this exposure, leaving the unborn baby’s nervous and renal systems, face, ears, and neck prone to the side effects. 

Another study went further to discover a correlation between the exposure of a woman to paint fumes before and during pregnancy and leukemia in the babies. 

  • Toddlers and Kids

Babies should not even stay close to a room being painted. Their nervous systems are still weak and unable to take much suffering. That is why exposure to VOCs may lead to leukemia in babies.

You should also take kids away from paint fumes because exposure could trigger allergies, eczema, asthma, and rhinitis.

How Long Should You Wait Before You Use a Newly Painted Room?

I know you are eager to use the beautiful room, but suppress that eagerness for the sake of your health. Although freshly applied paints can continue to emit VOCs long after they are dry, professionals recommend that you wait for three days before you go in. In those three days, the room must be well ventilated. 

And don’t be deceived. You may perceive nothing after you paint the room. Some VOCs are odorless. You still have to stay away for a minimum of three days. Take a week if you can. 

Paint Fumes Safety Tips

There are two ways to be safe from paint fumes. The first is to avoid VOC by using only no-VOC paints. The other way to be safe is by getting rid of paint fumes in the following steps:

  • Plan the painting to happen when there wouldn’t be many people at home. You and your family could go for a week-long trip while the painting is being done.
  • Always encourage proper ventilation in newly painted rooms.
  • If you are doing the painting yourself, take breaks. And after you finish, stay out of the room for up to three days.
  • Air purifiers are great for reducing VOCs in your freshly painted rooms. Try using an air purifier in these rooms and other rooms the fumes may have escaped into.

HP Thoughts: Paint fumes are bad for the lungs and the throat, too. They irritate the mucous linings of these body parts causing irritation and swelling. For the former, fumes could cause difficulty in breathing and make the afflicted gasp for air. For breathing problems, we prepared a post for you to follow — Breathing Problems at Night.


Humans are not the only ones that suffer from exposure to VOCs. Paint fumes can harm pets too. Protect yourself, your family, and your pets from these paint fumes. 

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