Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

September, 2003

Latex Paint - Industrial Hygiene - Health Risks

Q. I was wondering what the effects are of using latex paint, and what precautions you should take. I have some friends that are just using small dust masks when they paint with latex, and I am sure that is not healthy, but I cannot convince them. I was not cautious when I was younger and am now paying for it with a cough. I need some facts.

A. I'm not an industrial hygienist and cannot give you a definitive answer. Generally, I can say that for the casual paint user, such as a home owner who paints a few rooms of his/her house and then quits, I do not believe that the health risk is high. On the other hand a painting contractor is exposed to solvent vapors over a period of years and might well suffer health consequences later.

One method for determining the health risk is to get a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the latex paint. A copy can be obtained from your local hardware store or can be downloaded from the paint vendor's website. The MSDS lists all of the hazardous ingredients and gives an explanation of the health risks for each ingredient.

Although I have indicated that the health risks when using a latex paint in small quantities are fairly low, I still urge paint users to wear appropriate respirators, and not simply dust masks.

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