Slapping on a fresh coat of paint is an easy way to take your home from drab to fab. But are paint fumes toxic? Does a quick touch up to your living room walls pose serious health risks for you and your family?

There are certain types of people who should not be exposed to paint fumes, even if it’s for a short time. This is especially prevalent for pregnant women, following a research study linking children born with autism and exposure to wet paint in expecting mothers.

But what causes paint’s unpleasant odor, and how can you paint your home without putting your health on the line? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about paint fumes.

What Causes Paint Fumes?

Paint contains four major components:

  • Binders to help the paint dry quickly
  • Solvents to allow pigments and binders to reach the surface
  • Pigments to create color 
  • Additives to increase thickness, improve durability, reduce bubbles, and prevent mildew

The additives are where the most dangerous chemicals are found. The additives spread out when a wet layer of paint is applied to a wall.

When this happens, the paint gives off strong fumes that can create health problems. Volatile Organic Compounds, also known as VOCs, found in paint increase pollution levels. As the paint dries, the VOCs are released, creating paint fumes.

Are Paint Fumes Toxic?

Is it harmful to expose yourself to paint fumes? Wet paint is most harmful if ingested or applied to your skin.

As for breathing, some people experience allergic reactions to paint fumes that include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation

Short-term paint fumes shouldn’t be toxic. If you’re worried about paint fume irritation, water-based paints have lower levels of VOCs and have less risk of causing problems. Or, you can consult with a professional painter to minimize health risks.

Long-term exposure to paint fumes can trigger more serious health concerns, like asthma. Pregnant women, children, and people over 65 have the greatest risk of developing severe health problems if breathing in paint fumes for extended periods.

How Long Will Paint Fumes Last?

The amount of time the paint fumes linger depends on the type of paint. Standard paint can take 14 to 24 weeks for the fumes to completely dissipate. Oil paint takes up to two months to cure.

If two to four months seems too long, there are ways to speed up the process. The most reliable way is by properly ventilating the newly painted room. Open windows and doors, bring in fans, and do whatever you can to push the VOCs out.

Charcoal is activated carbon with a tremendous surface area that makes it an excellent absorbent. Crush pieces of charcoal in bowls and set them throughout the freshly painted room. You’ll notice fewer paint fumes in a few hours.

If you don’t have any charcoal, baking soda is the next best solution. Place several shallow bowls of baking soda around the painted room to absorb the excess odors.

If the room has carpet, sprinkle baking soda into the carpet and let it sit for a few hours. The baking soda can absorb any VOCs hiding in your carpet. Vacuum the baking soda when the odors are gone.

Painting Professionals at Your Service!

Are paint fumes toxic? Chances are, as long as you don’t breathe in too much wet paint, you shouldn’t be affected by the fumes. If you’re concerned about the health risks of painting your home, don’t be afraid to consult with a professional.

The top-notch team at Brush Strokes Painting is here to take your paint fume worries away. Our professionals can get you the home of your dreams without the health concerns. Contact us now to learn more about our painting services.