What Do Paint and Jellyfish Have In Common?

July 17th, 2018

paint health hazards

They’re Both Hazardous To Your Health

What do box jellyfish and paint have in common? Both can be hazardous, even deadly. Paint is a chemical, and unprotected exposure over time causes short and long-term health effects. OSHA even created many paint safety and health standards for employers to follow to protect employees against paint health hazards.

So, if you’re a professional painter (think spray gun operator, spray line operator) how can you protect your health?

Protect Yourself Against Paint Health Hazards

You can prevent exposure to paint chemicals by wearing the appropriate protective equipment – a respirator designed for painting, coveralls, chemical-resistant gloves, and eye protection.  Use an appropriate respirator when spraying polyurethane paints and other paints in enclosed areas.  Paint in ventilated spray booths, or work in a well-ventilated area.  Change the respirator cartridge according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Educate Yourself About Paint Health Hazards

Always read the label before beginning a paint job.  Use your Safety Data Sheet (SDS) as a guide to what hazards your paint contains, what type of protective equipment to use, and whether the paint may easily ignite.  The SDS will also tell you how to contain and clean up a paint spill, and what to do in case of overexposure to paint.

Paint Health Hazards – What They Are

Paint contains pigments, solvents, resins, and other ingredients to give it color, texture, spreadability and durability.  Many of these ingredients are hazardous to your health.  First among them are the solvents, such as mineral spirits, naphtha and turpentine, that evaporate readily from paint exposed to the air.  Even short-term exposure to these chemicals can cause dizziness, eye irritation, nausea, coughing and other symptoms.  In addition, paints containing polyisocyanate hardeners can cause shortness of breath, chills, and fever.  Long-term exposure to paint ingredients, even when no short-term effects are noticed, can damage the kidneys, liver, blood, or nervous system.  Some even cause cancer and birth defects in laboratory animals.

You may work with paints for a long time with no ill effects.  Suddenly you develop rashes, hives, swelling or scaling of the skin, or you begin coughing and having shortness of breath, which often leads to permanent lung damage or severe respiratory stress.  This is sensitization, an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients in paint.  Once you become sensitized, it is virtually impossible for you to work with the sensitizing substance again.  This is why you must avoid contact with the paint in the first place by using the right protective equipment.

Keeping It Safe

The volatile solvents in paint are flammable.  Painting in an unventilated area near an ignition source – such as cigarette, spark or static electricity – can be dangerous.  Paint containers exposed to high heat may explode.  And some paints contain chemicals that may react violently with other substances.

Reporting An Unsafe Work Environment

ABR Employment Services and the companies we partner with to provide people jobs have a joint responsibility to keep our employees safe. If you work with paint on the job, and are unsure whether or not you need to wear protective equipment, contact your ABR Employment Representative immediately. We want to keep you safe and healthy!

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