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Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

April, 2008


Q: When a oil based paint is used with high voc's does the emissions eventually stop within a few weeks or does the health hazard last longer?

What specific component in latex seems to make some people sick?

Should like a N-95 mask be used when applying latex paints.

Do some latex paint have lower voc's than others?

A: You've asked some difficult questions which I will try to answer.

Oil-based paints come in a wide range of resin types. Presumably you are referring to alkyd/acrylic air dried paints used on walls, wood, etc. The term "health hazard" is relative. Some people are ultra-sensitive to the solvents and other ingredients that evaporate, while others are not much affected. Further, "health hazard" can imply an asthmatic type reaction, but when only a few gallons of paint are used do the health hazards include cancer and other serious illnesses. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product in question spells out the potential "hazardous ingredients" and provides more details on each one.

In general, I think one can assume that the evaporation of the volatile or semi-volatile ingredients decrease rapidly at first, and then more slowly over time. After a few days or weeks the concentration of airborne ingredients should be very low indeed. To reduce them even further it is always helpful to ventilate the room or building in which the paint was applied.

Latex paints are generally waterborne and contain very small quantities of solvents (VOC). Again, if you refer to the MSDS for the product in question, you will see what "hazardous" ingredients were added and their potential effect on health.

You should be able to obtain the MSDS for every paint you use, and in most cases you can download these for the Internet.

Unfortunately I don't have any information on the type of respirator that should be used.

Good luck,

Ron Joseph


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