Feeling a little woozy whilst working on a paint job? Whilst this seems a little common, there could be much more to it than a lack of ventilation!
What lurks beneath the vibrant colour is a whole host of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxins that stick around long after your paint has dried. In fact, paint is part of an ongoing air pollution battle in the UK. It’s estimated that 400,000 lives are lost each year due to gases and toxins built up in the lower atmosphere, and paint could well be a prime culprit.
With many of us suffering from asthma and related breathing impairments, we need to dig a little deeper to find the root cause.
Can paint be the problem?
Whilst we’re not saying paint is solely to blame, its effects on the atmosphere should not be ignored. Older painted structures that are in need of a spruce up could be covered in toxic paint that is outdated and still emitting VOCs and fungicide into the open air.
Quite recently, a children’s play area in Plymouth which had been built in 2009, was found to be coated in paint with a 10% presence of lead. Despite being painted 7 years ago, the presence of lead could have impacted local families who frequent the play area. You would be forgiven for thinking that a relatively modern structure would be safe and that local authorities would think to monitor such pollutions, but unfortunately there seems to be a lack of education across the board.
When you think of air pollution, you first of all consider cars, gas and perhaps even aerosols. Paint may not always cross your mind unless it’s part of your daily routine, like ours! Every day, hundreds of businesses and homes touch up the paint on their walls. You may not expect your own little interior design project to affect the atmosphere, but en mass the problems begin mounting.
Is eco paint really that safe?
Despite new EU laws in place to protect us, new low-VOC paints still contain toxins that seep into the air. In fact, many paints labelled as ‘non-toxic’ still contain harmful elements such as VOC solvents and fungicides.
Unfortunately, it has also been revealed that some paints have to include more bulking agents and stabilisers following the laws. Water-based gloss paints have become a grey area, with many manufacturers adding even more ingredients and lengthening the production process, in a bid to meet new laws and regulations.
In 2010, stringent limits were placed on paint manufacturers. Since this, many have opted to display ‘eco friendly’ badges after making the changes, but this is not necessarily correct. As mentioned, eco paints still contain VOCs and the production methods could be much more harmful to the environment.
How to avoid VOCs in the work place
We can take matters into our own hands when it comes to home decor, but the work place is often out of our control. We inspect painted structures every day and often find that some businesses don’t fully understand the risks involved when it comes to old paint jobs.
Testing your coatings for harmful VOCs should be a high priority for any employer. Sick days currently cost the UK over £100bn a year and it’s thought that office pollutants could be making the issue worse. What may seem like a common cold sweeping the office could be irritants in the air from old paint emitting VOCs.