Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

May, 2004

Strong Odors from Painting Operation

Q. I work across the street from a paint and bodyshop. The wind blows the fumes in our direction and the smell is strong. Is this harmful to our health?!

A. Thank you for your email. If you inhale certain solvents over a long period of time they can be carcinogenic or cause other serious health problems. Only a handful of solvents fall into this category and they include toluene, xylene: MEK and MIBK. Most of the other solvents that are used in paints do not cause serious health effects even though they might have a strong odor.

I'm not an industrial hygienist or toxicologist and therefore am not qualified to advise you on your health risks; however, if you're concerned then you should contact your local air pollution agency and report the matter. This complaint often considered a nuisance violation which is reportable.

In all likelihood one or more of the solvents mentioned in the first paragraph is/are present in the coating and you have a legitimate right not to want to inhale these over a long period of time.

If I can be of further help please don't hesitate to call or write.

Best wishes,

Ron Joseph

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