Paint is typically considered a dangerous substance, and this common belief is well justified. There are two types of paint that are the most pervasive when it comes to residential painting: water-based latex paints and oil-based paints. Read ahead to learn more about how each paint type impacts the environment and affects one’s physical health.
Latex Paint’s Harmful Properties
Since latex paints use water for their liquid quotient, you can rest assured that you are getting a safer product than older, more traditional paints. There can still be a small portion of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in these paints, which are generally considered harmful in higher quantities. Latex paints possess low amounts of odour and they do not overly pollute the air, so they pose little risk to the respiratory system and are relatively safe to work with. Liquid latex can still be irritating to the skin and while it is not poisonous to swallow, it can upset the stomach and become a choking hazard. These paints, however, offer the advantages of generally being more durable (no cracking and peeling), providing a washable surface, and being quite easy to clean up after (just water and soap will often do the trick!). As for its environmental impact, latex paint is relatively safe due to its low VOC content and the fact that it is recyclable.
Oil-Based Paint’s Harmful Properties
Paints with an oil base are obviously not as safe due to their high VOC content. Containing petroleum distillates and other organic solvents instead of water, oil-based paint exudes a stronger odour than latex and is generally more toxic and harmful to the respiratory system. For oil-based paint, an appropriate mask should be considered mandatory! These paints can also contain traces of lead, which has been proven to have detrimental effects on the nervous system. Swallowing it will also cause an upset stomach and if it is choked on, it can have a devastating effect on the lungs. Oil-based paints also pose a greater threat to the environment and are more difficult to properly dispose of. You must allow the paint to dry completely in the can and then take it to a hazardous waste facility. Benefits of these paints include a smoother painting experience as well as a thicker and smoother finish, which often means less coats and better concealed wall imperfections.
No matter what, using any kind of paint will expose you to toxic chemicals, so it is best to wear a mask even when using a safer, water-based latex paint. Also make sure painted areas get acceptable amounts of ventilation during and after residential painting sessions. Remember to never pour any of your excess paint down the drain when trying to dispose of it. This is not only illegal, but doing so will cause toxic chemicals to enter the water cycle; this can prove harmful to aquatic wildlife and the environment as well as to humans when the water is recycled back through to people’s homes.