Paint Related Products Are Hazardous To Your Health
Paint is a common home improvement item on the market today which is a potentially hazardous
household product. Products become potentially hazardous when they
contain chemicals that can endanger human health or the environment
if not properly used, stored, and/or disposed. Some paint and paint
related products may be in this category.
reduction is a priority in prevention waste. Buy only the amount
of paint needed. Paint disposal may be unnecessary -- apply a second
coat, touch up areas which need improvement and attempt to donate
"leftover" paint to charity, theater groups and community projects.
Disposal is a last resort.
average American home has one to three gallons of unwanted paint
stored. When household hazardous waste collection events are held,
from 40 to 70 percent of the collected waste is paint. Typically,
the paint brought to household hazardous waste collections is 5
to 10 years old. Despite these statistics, funding environmentally
safe disposal options for waste paint is sometimes difficult.
is made through combining chemical products. These chemicals include
solvents, binders, additives and pigments. Paint is classified into
two basic categories, latex, in which the major liquid ingredient
is water, and solvent-based, which contains some sort of organic
or water-based paints can be identified by words on labels such
as "clean with soap and water" "latex", "vinyl", "acrylic" or "water-based".
Solvent-based paints may have the words "alkyd", "oil-based", "urethane",
"epoxy", "varnish", "clean up with mineral spirits or paint thinner",
"contains petroleum distillates", or "combustible: keep away from
heat and flame".
and disposal alternatives vary according to these categories and
product composition. If you are unsure about the paint composition,
read the label and contact the manufacturer for recommendations
on disposal. Look for a toll free number on the label. The majority
of household paints sold today are water-based latex -- even some
urethane or polyurethane
people don't know what to do with their leftover paint. The trash
collectors may not take it, the landfill may not want it, and it's
risky (and possibly illegal) to pour it down the drain. How are
you managing your leftover paint and paint related products?
of Household Hazardous Waste
no longer need to buy extra paint thinking they won't be able to
match the colors. New color and computer technology allows for more
accurate color matching. Machines can read a paint chip sample and
match the color.
only what is needed and use all the paint purchased. Even though
larger quantities may be cheaper per gallon, difficulty with storage
and total use or disposal may arise. Measure carefully the area
to be painted to estimate the amount needed.
the least hazardous product and buy the product for the specific
job and materials. Water-based products are becoming more readily
available and generally contain fewer flammable and toxic solvents
than solvent-based products.
it up, give it away to friends or donate it to charity.
out and use leftover paint and paint-related products. Check to
see if you or a friend or neighbor already has the product on
hand before buying more. Keep an inventory of the kinds and amounts
of products you have to help meet others needs.
paints tightly sealed in the original can. Close the container
tightly after each use. Store in a well-ventilated dry area away
from extreme heat, cold or flame sources, pilot lights and out
of the reach of children. Keep paint from freezing and away from
heat sources. Make sure the lid is secured and store the paint
can upside down to create a seal around the lid preserving the
paint quality. Some paints can remain useful for 15 or more years.
first choice for many paint and paint-related products, when safe
to do so, is to completely use, recycle, or share with someone who
can use it completely. Do not discard paint onto the ground or down
a drain or storm sewer. Toxic solvents in some products can also
pass through the wastewater treatment systems unchanged to be discharged
directly into the drainfield or affect wastewater treatment operations.
paint may be used up, shared with neighbors, or donated to a community
organization such as a school or a theater as long as it is safe
to use and has not been frozen. Before you buy paint, try to use
any left-over paint you have. It may be used, if suited to the surface
and purpose, as a primer or to paint a storage building area.
that is shared or donated should meet the following criteria. a
useable quantity remains the paint is still in its original container
with a legible label if latex paint, it has not been frozen (Latex
paint that has undergone freeze/thaw several times may resemble
"cottage cheese.") the paint has not been contaminated with other
products the paint is lead free (check on old paints)
paint recycling is becoming more common. Recycling programs may
include waste paint exchanges and paint re-formulation. Paint exchanges
involve giving away paint in good condition in its original container
or bulking the paint into drums for reuse. Some older latex paint
is not recyclable because it is in poor condition or contains potentially
hazardous materials such as mercury (phenyl mercuric acetate) and
other heavy metals.
some state and local agencies have tried to stimulate volunteer
paint collection and paint exchange recycling programs, collection
may present a problem. Actual reprocessing of leftover paint is
also difficult. Manufacturers generally do not have a sure way of
knowing the quality of what they are bringing into their factory
and may not be able to determine ahead of time if the leftover paint
can be used. Contamination, liability, cost, regulations and markets
are other problems in paint reprocessing.
federal regulations, household hazardous waste is specifically exempted
from hazardous waste regulations under RCRA. However, potentially
hazardous household waste should be handled responsibly. Solvent-based
paints require special handling for disposal because they may be
flammable and exhibit a hazardous waste characteristic.
latex paints do not meet the federal definition of a hazardous waste.
However, latex paint containing mercury biocides may fail the toxicity
test and should be handled responsibly. Interior latex generally
has low toxicity; exterior latex may still contain mercury-containing
biocides. Any latex may contain mercury-containing biocides if manufactured
before 1991. Some states do consider latex paint a hazardous waste.
Metals in Paint
(phenyl mercuric acetate) has been used as a biocide in paint, but
was banned from use in interior latex paint in 1991 and voluntarily
withdrawn from exterior latex in 1991. (A biocide generally means
any substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms
such as bacteria, molds, fungi, etc.) Mercury-containing biocides
are still allowed in exterior latex paints, but manufacturers are
working to reduce or eliminate it.
issue that the paint industry has addressed is lead-based paint.
The use of leaded-pigments in paints was banned in 1973. Concern
about existing paint-in-place contamination exists. Paints with
high levels of heavy metals can be identified by checking the container
labels or contacting the manufacturer listed on the label. These
paints may need to be treated as potentially hazardous.
poisoning through exposure to existing lead based paint-in-place
is a public health concern. Consumers can call the National Lead
Information Center hotline (1-800-LEAD-FYI) to request information
packets regarding lead. The hotline for questions about lead is
1-800-424-LEAD. Consumers can also call the Nebraska Department
of Health at (402) 471-2541 or their local health department.
Joint Paint Industry Coordinating Council has published a pamphlet
discussing what consumers should do if they suspect their home has
lead-based paint. The publication "Dealing with Lead-Based Paint"
along with other publications are available through the Paint and
Coatings Industry Information Center (202-332-3194).
of Household Paints
paint can't be used up, recycled or taken to a household hazardous
waste collection, storage or disposal are last resort options.
quantities of unusable paints (less than half-a-gallon), that have
dried and solidified are usually considered a household waste material
and are accepted (check first) at most permitted landfills. Contact
your area landfill operator or Health Department for information
on disposal of the hardened material and if it is accepted. To solidify
the paint, allow the liquid to evaporate in an OPEN, secure, sheltered
place in a SAFE manner away from flames, children and pets; and
then dispose of the hardened material. To dry the paint faster,
pour one half inch layers into an absorbent material such as kitty
liter or sand to speed up drying. Do not use newspapers or other
ignitable materials (especially for solvent-based products) because
of the potential for spontaneous combustion.
products are not designed to be emptied into storm sewers, household
drains (especially if you have a septic tank) or on the ground.
the latex paint cannot be solidified, recycled or taken to a household
hazardous waste collection activity or site, some wastewater treatment
plants may allow you to discard very small quantities into a sink
with plenty of water. Contact your wastewater treatment plant for
information. To discard paint pour it down a sink drain and flush
with plenty of water. The latex paint discarded in this manner should
not contain mercury-containing biocides, lead or other heavy metals.
not flush paint into a septic system as the impacts of the pigments
and other materials are not completely understood. Never dispose
of waste paint into a storm sewer.
or alkyd paint
or alkyd paints require special disposal practices. Solvent-based
paints are ignitable and present particular hazard. Recycling solvent-based
or alkyd is not as common. Some collection/recycling programs bulk
solvent-based paint for use as a fuel. If solvent-based paint cannot
be used up, recycled or taken to a household hazardous waste collection
activity or site, the only other acceptable ways to manage it are
to solidify it and dispose of the solid residue at a landfill or
store it safely (out of reach of children, tight lid and in a well
ventilated area) until a collection activity or opportunity to reuse
is available. Contact your area landfill operator for information
on whether dried solvent-based paint is accepted. Some areas do
not recommend solidification of paints due to concern for air quality
remaining paint to neighbors or community organizations. If it is
partially full and cannot be used up or given away, save it for
a household hazardous waste collection.
thinners, turpentine, mineral spirits and other solvents can be
reused. These products, like solvent-based or alkyd paints, should
not be emptied into storm sewers, household drains or onto the ground.
Reuse or use up these types of products.
and disposal alternatives vary depending on the composition. Read
the label or contact the manufacturer for more information about
Thinner or Turpentine
these up or give them to someone who will use them up, recycle,
or take to a household hazardous collection activity or site. To
reuse thinner, allow any accumulated particles to settle to the
bottom or filter through a fine mesh filter. Pour off the clear
thinner into another container with a lid and label clearly for
reuse (example: old paint thinner can). Discard the leftover residue
when completely dry. (Take precautions -- avoid potential spontaneous
combustion accidents when disposing in trash can.)
Methylene Chloride or similar base: use this up or give it to someone who
will use it, recycle, or take to a household hazardous waste collection
program. If those options are not possible, small quantities of
the stripper may be evaporated.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges
consumers to reduce their cancer risk when working with paint
strippers and adhesive removers containing Methylene Chloride, by
using the products outdoors or by ventilating the work area.
Methylene chloride has been shown to cause cancer in certain
laboratory animals. To properly ventilate the work area, open all
windows and doors and use a fan to exhaust the air outside. Since
1987, when warning labels were required for household products
containing methylene chloride, there has been a 55 percent
reduction in the estimated number of cancers to be caused
annually in the U.S. from these products. However, CPSC is still
concerned about the potential risk to consumers who inhale high
levels of fumes when using paint strippers and adhesive removers.
- Use paint strippers and other products containing methylene
- If a product containing methylene chloride must be used indoors, even in a garage; open all windows and doors and use a fan to
exhaust the air outside during application and drying.
base -- sodium hydroxide: use up. Small quantities diluted at least
10:1 may be flushed down a drain (not a storm drain or septic tank).
BEWARE of Household Solvents: Paint Stripper, Furniture stripper, Turpentine, Charcoal lighter fluid, Drycleaning fluids, Paint thinner, Nail polish remover, Degreasers, Lubricating Oils, and Fuels are generally 100% organic solvent!
use up. Reuse by preparing in the same manner as paint thinner or
(trisodium phosphate): use up.
Finishes/Wood Oils and Stains (solvent-based)
using up, recycling, giving away or taking to a household hazardous
waste collection are not possible, very small quantities may be
evaporated. These solutions are flammable so do not dispose of them
in the trash or down the drain.
based (such as copper or zinc naphthenate): Use up or save for hazardous
waste collection. The human and environmental impact of disposal
of these preservatives is not fully understood.
(PCP or penta): Do not use. Avoid all exposure. Do not attempt to
dispose. If you have some of this product, package it carefully
to prevent spills, label clearly and save it for a household hazardous
waste collection program. Preservatives containing pentachlorophenol
may be contaminated with a form of dioxin, a toxic compound.
paint cans with a dry film are recyclable in steel can recycling
collection programs. Empty aerosol cans can be disposed of with
household trash, if aerosol can recycling is not available.
or Hobby Paints
specialty household and hobby paints, handle appropriately as either
solvent-based or latex-based paints. Check the label or contact
the manufacturer for more information.
in Manufacturing Paints and Paint Related Products
paint industry is attempting to address environmental issues such
as volatile organic compounds, paint recycling, and toxic metals.
The paint industry and government have been working to reduce volatile
organic compounds (VOCs). At least one company has introduced a
new interior latex paint which does not emit VOCs.
products being introduced in the paint and coatings industry include
low-VOC formula paints, more water-based products including stains,
sealers, varnishes and other clear coatings, paints made of recycled
post-consumer product, and wood cleaners with low VOC levels.
Do lt Yourself Removal of Lead Based Paint: Safety Alert
There is no completely safe method for "do-it-yourself" removal of lead-based paint, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Each of the paint-removal methods - sandpaper, scrapers, chemicals, and torches or heat guns - can produce lead fumes or dust. Fumes or dust can become airborne and be inhaled. Further, dust can settle on floors, walls, and tables, and can cause problems. It can be ingested by children from hand-to-mouth contact. It can re-enter the air through cleaning (such as sweeping or vacuuming) or by movements of people throughout the house. Lead-based paint should be removed only by professionals, trained in hazardous material removal, who follow detailed procedures to control and contain lead dust.
Lead-based paint may be found on any interior or exterior surface in an older home, particularly on woodwork, doors, and windows. Heavily-leaded paint was used in about two-thirds of homes built before 1940, one-half of homes built from 1940 to 1960, and some homes built after 1960. In 1978, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission lowered the legal lead content in most paint to 0.06% (a trace amount).
Lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children and can also affect adults. Lead poisoning can cause brain damage and can result in impaired mental functions. Lead poisoning in children can result in retarded mental and physical development and reduced attention span. In adults, lead poisoning can cause irritability, poor muscle coordination, nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body, and may cause problems with reproduction (such as decreased sperm counts). Lead poisoning may also increase the blood pressure in adults. Retarded fetal development can occur at even low blood lead levels. Thus, unborn children, infants, young children, and adults with high blood pressure have been identified as being most vulnerable to the effects of lead.
Consumers themselves cannot tell whether their paint contains lead. Before removing old paint, have the paint checked for lead content. Some local or state health or housing departments can suggest which private labs or public agencies can test your paint for lead or how to obtain a sample for testing. If testing is unavailable or costly, consumers should assume that older painted surfaces contain lead.
Lead-based paint should be removed only by professionals trained in hazardous material removal. Consumers should not attempt to remove lead-based paint. Any attempt to remove lead-based paint may create a serious hazard in the house. A trained professional must follow very detailed procedures to minimize, control and contain lead dust generated by the removal process. These procedures are included in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Interim Guidelines for Removal of Lead-Based Paint. Homeowners should obtain the HUD interim guidelines and assure that contractors use them. Homeowners should question contractors about their familiarity with the following procedures:
The room should be sealed from the rest of the house. All furniture, carpets and drapes should be removed.
Workers should wear respirators designed to avoid inhaling lead.
No eating or drinking should be allowed in the work area. All food and eating utensils should be removed from the room. All cabinets as well as food contact surfaces should be covered and sealed.
Children and other occupants (especially infants, pregnant women, and adults with high blood pressure) should be kept out of the house until the job is completed.
Clothing worn in the room should be disposed of after working. The work clothing should not be worn in other areas of the house.
Debris should be cleaned up using special vacuum cleaners with HEPA (high efficiency particle absorption) filters. A wet mop should be used after vacuuming.
What You Should Know About Lead Based Paint in Your Home
Lead-based paint is hazardous to your health.
Lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children
and can also affect adults. In children, lead poisoning can cause
irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning. It
can retard mental and physical development and reduce attention
span. It can also retard fetal development even at extremely low
levels of lead. In adults, it can cause irritability, poor muscle
coordination, and nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves
controlling the body. Lead poisoning may also cause problems with
reproduction (such as a decreased sperm count). It may also
increase blood pressure. Thus, young children, fetuses, infants,
and adults with high blood pressure are the most vulnerable to
the effects of lead.
Children should be screened for lead poisoning.
In communities where the houses are old and deteriorating, take
advantage of available screening programs offered by local health
departments and have children checked regularly to see if they
are suffering from lead poisoning. Because the early symptoms of
lead poisoning are easy to confuse with other illnesses, it is
difficult to diagnose lead poisoning without medical testing.
Early symptoms may include persistent tiredness, irritability,
loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, reduced attention span,
insomnia, and constipation. Failure to treat children in the
early stages can cause long-term or permanent health damage.
The current blood lead level which defines lead poisoning is 10
micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. However, since
poisoning may occur at lower levels than previously thought,
various federal agencies are considering whether this level
should be lowered further so that lead poisoning prevention
programs will have the latest information on testing children for
Consumers can be exposed to lead from paint.
Eating paint chips is one way young children are exposed to lead.
It is not the most common way that consumers, in general, are
exposed to lead. Ingesting and inhaling lead dust that is created
as lead-based paint "chalks," chips, or peels from deteriorated
surfaces can expose consumers to lead. Walking on small paint
chips found on the floor, or opening and closing a painted frame
window, can also create lead dust. Other sources of lead include
deposits that may be present in homes after years of use of
leaded gasoline and from industrial sources like smelting.
Consumers can also generate lead dust by sanding lead-based paint
or by scraping or heating lead-based paint.
Lead dust can settle on floors, walls, and furniture. Under these
conditions, children can ingest lead dust from hand-to-mouth con-
tact or in food. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air through
cleaning, such as sweeping or vacuuming, or by movement of people
throughout the house.
Older homes may contain lead based paint.
Lead was used as a pigment and drying agent in "alkyd" oil based
paint. "Latex" water based paints generally have not contained
lead. About two-thirds of the homes built before 1940 and
one-half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960 contain
heavily-leaded paint. Some homes built after 1960 also contain
heavily-leaded paint. It may be on any interior or exterior
surface, particularly on woodwork, doors, and windows. In 1978,
the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission lowered the legal
maximum lead content in most kinds of paint to 0.06% (a trace
amount). Consider having the paint in homes constructed before
the 1980s tested for lead before renovating or if the paint or
underlying surface is deteriorating. This is particularly
important if infants, children, or pregnant women are present.
Consumers can have paint tested for lead.
There are do-it-yourself kits available. However, the U.S.
Consumer Product Safety Commission has not evaluated any of these
kits. One home test kit uses sodium sulfide solution. This
procedure requires you to place a drop of sodium sulfide solution
on a paint chip. The paint chip slowly turns darker if lead is
present. There are problems with this test, however. Other metals
may cause false positive results, and resins in the paint may
prevent the sulfide from causing the paint chip to change color.
Thus, the presence of lead may not be correctly indicated. In
addition the darkening may be detected only on very light-colored
Another in-home test requires a trained professional who can
operate the equipment safely. This test uses X-ray fluorescence
to determine if the paint contains lead. Although the test can be
done in your home, it should be done only by professionals
trained by the equipment manufacturer or who have passed a state
or local government training course, since the equipment contains
radioactive materials. In addition, in some tests, the method has
not been reliable.
Consumers may choose to have a testing laboratory test a paint
sample for lead. Lab testing is considered more reliable than
other methods. Lab tests may cost from $20 to $50 per sample. To
have the lab test for lead paint, consumers may:
- Get sample containers from the lab or use re-sealable plastic
bags. Label the containers or bags with the consumer's name and
the location in the house from which each paint sample was taken.
Several samples should be taken from each affected room (see HUD
Guidelines discussed below).
- Use a sharp knife to cut through the edges of the sample paint.
The lab should tell you the size of the sample needed. It will
probably be about 2 inches by 2 inches.
- Lift off the paint with a clean putty knife and put it into the
container. Be sure to take a sample of all layers of paint, since
only the lower layers may contain lead. Do not include any of the
underlying wood, plaster, metal, and brick.
- Wipe the surface and any paint dust with a wet cloth or paper
towel and discard the cloth or towel.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
recommends that action to reduce exposure should be taken when
the lead in paint is greater than 0.5% by lab testing or greater
than 1.0 milligrams per square centimeter by X-ray fluorescence.
Action is especially important when paint is deteriorating or
when infants, children, or pregnant women are present.
Consumers can reduce exposure to lead-based paint.
If you have lead-based paint, you should take steps to reduce
your exposure to lead. You can:
1. Have the painted item replaced.
You can replace a door or other easily removed item if you can
do it without creating lead dust. Items that are difficult to
remove should be replaced by professionals who will control and
contain lead dust.
2. Cover the lead-based paint.
You can spray the surface with a sealant or cover it with
gypsum wallboard. However, painting over lead-based paint with
non-lead paint is not a long-term solution. Even though the
lead-based paint may be covered by non-lead paint, the lead-based
paint may continue to loosen from the surface below and create
lead dust. The new paint may also partially mix with the
lead-based paint, and lead dust will be released when the new
paint begins to deteriorate.
3. Have the lead-based paint removed.
Have professionals trained in removing lead-based paint do this
work. Each of the paint-removal methods (sandpaper, scrapers,
chemicals, sandblasters, and torches or heat guns) can produce
lead fumes or dust. Fumes or dust can become airborne and be
inhaled or ingested. Wet methods help reduce the amount of lead
dust. Removing moldings, trim, window sills, and other painted
surfaces for professional paint stripping outside the home may
also create dust. Be sure the professionals contain the lead
dust. Wet-wipe all surfaces to remove any dust or paint chips.
Wet-clean the area before re-entry.
You can remove a small amount of lead-based paint if you can
avoid creating any dust. Make sure the surface is less than about
one square foot (such as a window sill). Any job larger than
about one square foot should be done by professionals. Make sure
you can use a wet method (such as a liquid paint stripper).
4. Reduce lead dust exposure.
You can periodically wet mop and wipe surfaces and floors with
a high phosphorous (at least 5%) cleaning solution. Wear
waterproof gloves to prevent skin irritation. Avoid activities
that will disturb or damage lead based paint and create dust.
This is a preventive measure and is not an alternative to
replacement or removal.
Professionals are available to remove, replace, or cover
Contact your state and local health departments lead poisoning
prevention programs and housing authorities for information about
testing labs and contractors who can safely remove lead-based
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
prepared guidelines for removing lead-based paint which were
published in the Federal Register, April 18, 1990, page
1455614614. Ask contractors about their qualifications,
experience removing lead-based paint, and plans to follow these
- Consumers should keep children and other occupants (especially
infants, pregnant women, and adults with high blood pressure) out
of the work area until the job is completed.
- Consumers should remove all food and eating utensils from the
- Contractors should remove all furniture, carpets, and drapes
and seal the work area from the rest of the house. The contractor
also should cover and seal the floor unless lead paint is to be
removed from the floor.
- Contractors should assure that workers wear respirators
designed to avoid inhaling lead.
- Contractors should not allow eating or drinking in the work
area. Contractors should cover and seal all cabinets and food
- Contractors should dispose of clothing worn in the room after
working. Workers should not wear work clothing in other areas of
the house. The contractor should launder work clothes separately.
- Contractors should clean up debris using special vacuum
cleaners with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters and
should use a wet mop after vacuuming.
- Contractors should dispose of lead-based paint waste and
contaminated materials in accordance with state and local
Government officials and health professionals continue to develop
advice about removing lead-based paint. Watch for future
publications by government agencies, health departments, and
other groups concerned with lead-paint removal and prevention of
We are in the process of
buying a home. The house
that we are looking at was built in the 1950s.
The realtor says that we have the option to have the house
inspected for lead within 10 days of our initial agreement to purchase
it. We have two children
under the age of six. What
should we do? -Anon,
Most houses built prior to 1978 have some portion of their
houses coated with lead-based paint.
White lead was commonly used as a pigment in exterior white
paints (and other colored paints) in the U.S. until it was virtually
banned in 1978. In
addition to its pigment properties lead gave exterior paint durability
and a degree of gloss.
Prior to World War II lead was commonly used in interior paints
as well. Because lead was
needed for the war effort, paint manufacturers discontinued lead use
in interior paints around 1940 and for the most part did not resume
its use in interior paints after the war was over.
Lead-based paint caused lead poisoning and elevated blood lead
levels in children under the age of six has been a major public health
problem for the past half century.
It tends to be a problem in low income/minority areas in cities
and towns throughout the country.
The reasons for this are many.
Most importantly low income/minority families live in older
dilapidated homes, one of the major risk factors for unacceptably high
Childhood lead exposure is typically associated with
hand-to-mouth contact with lead-contaminated house dust. Lead dust is
associated with lead abraded from window sashes and doors and soil
tracked in from the outside. In
clapboard-sided houses (even those now covered with aluminum) high
lead levels can be found to be associated with soil near the perimeter
of the house. Children
can be exposed to lead by playing in bare soil within the houses drip
line. They can be exposed
to lead by sticking soil fragment covered fingers in their mouth and
by eating the soil itself (yes some children do love to eat dirt).
In many cases exposures occur from lead-contaminated soil being
tracked in by children and pets.
Having the home inspected for lead is a mixed bag.
If it was constructed before 1978, you can assume that the
exterior paint has lead in it above the legal limit (1 mg/cm2
or 0.5%) and take appropriate steps to protect your young children
(sod over all bare ground, restrict where your children play and pets
roam, and vacuum entry-way carpeting often).
If you decide to have the house inspected, you should be aware
of the legal implications of this action.
If testing shows lead levels above the federal guidelines, you
are obligated under federal law to disclose all “known” hazards
when you sell your home. The
availability of such lead inspection results may reduce its resale
value. As a consequence,
many house buyers do not want to know and therefore do not have their
house inspected for lead in paint, soil, or house dust.
Products Fact Sheet
homes and garages are full of toxic and hazardous products. Paints,
pesticides, lye, acids, and solvents are examples of the products
that can be dangerous to your family and pollute the environment
when they are thrown away. Many of these items are not even needed.
This fact sheet has been developed to help you make the switch to
safer products and alternatives.
is big business. Manufacturers distribute over one billion gallons
of paint annually to the tune of $10.7 billion dollars in the United
States alone. While most homeowners have one or more cans of paint
in their garage, few of them recognize the potential health hazards
and environmental toxicity if it is not used, stored and disposed
based paints are considered the safest to use. Paints manufactured
before 1990 may, however, contain mercury, which even at low levels
of exposure can cause neurological damage without noticeable symptoms.
Small percentages of alcohol solvents and glycol ethers are also
found in most water based paints.
the EPA banned the use of lead in oil based paint in 1981, oil based
paints still contain toxicants which can be easily inhaled, ingested
or absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. A few of
the chemicals are known carcinogens, others cause nervous system
depression, and most have not been adequately tested for their long-term
health effects. And, environmentally, the volatile organic compounds
(VOCs) found in oil based solvents contribute to photochemical smog.
Safety Data Sheets are available for paint products and may be helpful
in listing the components of the paint and potential health effects.
You may request a copy from the retail store where you buy paint.
are composed of resins (film formers), diluents (solvents), pigments
(color), and additives. The paint products category also includes
coatings such as varnish, shellac, polyurethane, and stains. Paints
are generally categorized on the basis of the solvent. The two main
categories are oil based and water based (latex) paints. Depending
on the type of paint selected, other paint related products such
as thinners and brush cleaners may be required. Latex and other
water based paint products are the safest to use, require no organic
solvents, dry quickly, and flow evenly.
are liquids that dissolve other substances and act as carriers for
pigments. Useful properties of solvents in paint products are volatility
(fast drying), ease of application, even flow and the ability to
dissolve paint and grease. Oil based paint solvents pose several
immediate and long term health and environmental concerns.
the VOC levels in paint products sold in the United States have
been reduced to help control pollution, levels may still be high
enough to pose potential health problems. All organic solvents are
toxic in varying degrees. It is in fact the useful properties of
organic solvents that add to their hazard. Because they are volatile,
there is an inhalation risk; or because they can dissolve many things,
they can be absorbed through the skin. They may cause as minor a
problem as skin rash or, if swallowed, they may be fatal.
reduce the risk to your health, select the least toxic product available
for the job.
Toxic: Water based (latex). Check that mercury is not included
additive to prevent mildew.
Toxic: Many of these ingredients are found in spray paints, paint
and lacquers. All are highly flammable.methyl
alcohol acetone isopropyl alcohol ethyl
alcohol ethyl acetate methyl ethyl ketone.
Toxic: The following are known as aromatic or chlorinated
They can be absorbed through the skin and therefore
enter the bloodstream more easily than through inhalation
a carcinogen which causes aplastic anemia (damaged
bone marrow), and leukemia, and a probable tetatogen
(causes birth defects).
a probable mutagen (causes inherited changes in gene
structure) and teratogen.
a probable teratogen.
Chloride (dichloromethane): a probable carcinogen.
Inhalation of vapors increases carbon monoxide
levels in blood, reducing oxygen supply to vital organs.
Other potential effects include damage to central nervous
system or skin burns. It decompresses in the presence
of flame or heat into highly toxic phosgene gas.
to recognize the warning signs of exposure to organic solvents so
that you don’t become a victim of poisoning.
(effects that occur during or immediately after exposure): irritability nervousness depression irregular
heartbeat weakness skin
redness watery eyes dizziness burning sensation dry
throat nausea headaches itching
(effects that develop after intense or prolonged exposure):
effects from frequent or prolonged exposure to organic solvents
have not been
thoroughly researched. Increased risk from exposure may cause permanent
to liver, kidneys, bone marrow, and central nervous system.
Additional Household Hazardous Waste Resources by the Home Air Purifier Expert
Here are some of our other information packed guides we recommend you explore in your search for information about controlling Household Hazardous Wastes and Chemicals like those found in paints, stains, varnishes, thinners, and laquers:
- Our Famous Household Chemical Encyclopedia is one of the most extensive sources of information about household chemicals on the internet today. It has over 100 chapters describing the toxic chemical ingredients in such houshold products as paint, varnish, stains, solvents, or laquers.
- Household Product Manufacturer Directory with 6,000 household products and 354 household product manufacturer contacts. Specific household product ingredients and MSDS information being added all the time.
- Our Household Product Safety Guide has tips for the safe use and disposal of household products found throughout your home.
- Our Guide to Household Solvents will give you more information about those most toxic of airborn chemical pollutants in your home, many in the paints on your walls and the aerosol chemicals we spray in and around our homes.
- Our Guide to Hazardous Substances will give you more safety information about common household products and the toxic chemicals they contain.
- Our Asbestos Bible and Asbestos MSDS is an extensive guide to every aspect of asbestos health hazards, exposure risks, abatement resources and tips, answers to common questions, and toxicological information.
- Our Radon Gas Guide is not to be missed especially if you are a smoker. We all need to have our homes tested for Radon no matter where we live. You're probably breathing this deadly gas into your lungs right now! Question is, how much? Our Radon guide will help you answer that question and many more.
- Our Benzene Bible with Benzene MSDS is an extensive collection of health and toxicological information about Benzene, including practical answers to common questions about Benzene.
- Our Formaldehyde Bible with Formaldehyde MSDS will explain the how, where, when, and why of one of the most common volatile organic chemicals contaminating your indoor air.
- Our Acetone Bible with Acetone MSDS is an extensive source of information about one of the most common organic solvents associated with paint use and disposal.
- Our Mercury Bible with Mercury MSDS will answer every possible question you could have about one of the most serious public health hazards affecting societies today. Mercury has fungicide properties so was added many paints in the past. Is Mercury in your paint? Is Mercury in your blood stream? ABSOLUTELY! Learn why and the resultant health affects of our body burden of Mercury.
- Our Lead Bible with Lead MSDS is an extensive guide to Lead which answers every possible question about Lead and why it's also one of the most serious public health hazards affecting children and families today. Lead in water and Lead based paint is of particular concern to children and pregnant women; but it's found in all our bloodstreams, learn why and how to reduce exposure to Lead.
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