Colors make our life colorful, every color has a mood attached to it, the splash of colors across the wall adds beauty and creativity to the place and above all, bring in elegance and warmth to our abode. Hospitals walls are white, school walls are multi-colored, gyms are given combination colors and restaurants follow a theme! Homes too are painted according to the individual’s taste and preferences-maybe a pattern on one wall with plain colors on other three walls to make the room look different yet smart. We decide upon the age of a building mostly by the look that it wears and this look is based on the painting of the structure. Even a 20-year-old apartment seems to be bright and gay when its repainted! We like to repaint the walls and structure so very often to maintain the newness of the place and keep it in good condition. Most paint their buildings at least once in 5 years while there are some who have never painted it in more than a decade. In Western countries every individual takes responsibility for his/her place and does every task possible-right from gardening to painting their house. They involve kids too in most of these chores and hence, have an attic or a basement where all the stuff related to these chores are stored. Anywhere around the world people do have leftover paint cans, brushes and turpentine to ease out the process when need occurs immediately. But, the chemicals in paints pose a serious threat to our health and there are chances for debilitating effects on our well-being too.
The Smell of Paint
Some feel dizzy while entering a newly painted house, some other cough and a few others’ eyes start to water. There is a pungent smell that fills the room when we enter painted houses and its recommended to stay off the house for a couple of days until the smell diminishes and things return to normalcy. It’s especially true in the case of children who cannot adjust to such conditions many times and are at an increased risk of falling sick. A sick child is the last thing that we wish and the latest research would surely discourage many of us to even think about repainting the house. A study published in a journal shows that women exposed to common paint chemicals at work were likelier to give birth to children with autism spectrum disorder-more the exposure to these chemicals, higher was the risk of the disease despite taking into account many autism-related factors such as smoking history, alcohol consumption levels and the mother’s age at the time of giving birth. We already have older studies that have shown a link between paint chemicals and autism but this present study is not a green signal to confirm that painting chemicals are sure shot classifiers of autism though evidences do point in that direction.
Many oil-based paints contain benzene in ample quantities which is a carcinogenic agent that’s also present in glue, markers, vehicle exhaust and pesticides. Don’t worry! All of us are exposed to vehicle exhausts, use glue to make our beautiful craft activities and kids too use glue for sticking and pasting. This doesn’t mean that all of us are going to be affected by cancer some other day. The dangers are high only when the exposure is for a prolonged time and at higher quantities. At the same time, spending your night inside a locked newly painted house or one that lacks sufficient ventilation is a big threat indeed. So, how about people who work in paint and chemical industries? They are definitely at a higher risk of exposure to benzene-a class of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Volatile Organic Compounds
VOCs can cause harmful effects on our health such as irritate our eyes, nose and throat, cause breathing difficulty, nausea, cancer and can even cause damage to the central nervous system. Pregnant women exposed to these compounds are at an increased risk of giving birth to low birth weight infants who suffer from learning disabilities owing to such weight changes. These VOCs are found in various things right from air fresheners, cosmetics, furniture and carpets to varnishes, dry-cleaned clothes, office printers, wood burning and gasoline. Avoid using products containing VOCs as much as possible and if you are using them ensure that the product contains tags such as ‘Low VOC content’ and dispose off the product once your job is finished. Never leave them in your garage or basement as this can lead to disastrous side effects. There have been new batches of paints released that state ‘zero VOC’ claims yet these too release chemical gases that are harmful.
Paints are also strong sources of lead whose exposure can once again affect children’s development, retard growth and cause damage to the central nervous system. Its lead that gives paint its color and texture thereby amounting to about 70% of a can of paint. When such paints are used to prepare kids toys and furniture there is a great possibility that the kids chew on these toys taking in small quantities of lead into their body. This can lead to convulsion and even death sometimes in kids. While the recommended lead limits are 90 ppm for household paints its been found that one of the paints manufactured contained unrealistic amounts of lead-as much as 74,200 ppm which is toxic beyond words (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/over-73-of-paints-found-to-have-excessive-lead-study/articleshow/61334283.cms).
Paints are harmful and toxic to all of us especially, pregnant women, young kids and older people. We cannot refrain from painting but all we can do is to ensure that the painted place is well-ventilated and airy. Nowadays we have multiple options in the form of zero VOC paints and low-chemical paints and it’s better to make use of them to stay away from harmful side effects.
Paint Stripper Chemical Methylene Chloride Poses Risk of Cancer: https://cen.acs.org/articles/92/web/2014/08/Paint-Stripper-Chemical-Methylene-Chloride.html
Are Paint Fumes a Health Concern? https://time.com/5619823/paint-fumes-harmful-research/
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.