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Paint and Vapour Concerns

Before you undertake any painting project, especially around your loved ones, you should be aware of the dangers of paint and it's vapour.

Paints contain chemicals. As paint dries some of these chemicals are released into the surrounding air as vapour, which people can breathe in.

Modern paint produces far less vapour than older paint, and the toxicity of the vapour is fairly low. But there may still be potential health hazards with modern paint fumes.

I Can Still Smell Fresh Paint - Is This Bad?

The smell of fresh paint is largely due to the release of Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs). This fresh paint smell is similar to the smell of dry cleaning, new carpet and some furniture because all these things release formaldehyde.

The chemical formaldehyde tends to aggravate allergies, and in strong concentrations it can cause red eyes or breathing difficulties. A small amount of formaldehyde is common in all homes, so it is almost unavoidable, but for health reasons it is best kept to a minimum. On a serious note this chemical is considered to be cancer causing and quite toxic.

Modern paints are often labelled ‘low VOC’ or ‘No VOC’. This means they release little or no harmful vapour into the surrounding air. Other modern paints will release a small amount of chemical vapour, but this usually dissipates after a day or two. Water based paints tend to have less chemical reside than oil based paints, but there are exceptions.

Even if the main wall paint is low VOC the paint used for the trim, the skirting boards, windows and door frames, may have some chemical fumes.

It is best to let a room detox for a day or two after painting to let the paint fumes dissipate. Do not occupy the room straight away.

How to Detoxify a Room After Painting

Newly painted rooms will be at their most toxic at the time of painting but will detoxify naturally overtime as the paint dries. As such, newborn children and pregnant women should avoid recently painted rooms and houses.

By following these steps you can speed up the process and detoxify a newly painted room:

  • Open doors and windows
  • Use fans to circulate the air
  • Use air purifiers with HEPA filters
  • If you have new carpet, cover the floor with Bicarb Soda and leave for a day or two before vacuuming
  • You can try sliced onions in bowls to soak up a fair amount of smell
  • Indoor plants will steadily soak up chemicals, especially formaldehyde. Check out these top 10 plants for removing toxins from the air. Check with you local nursery to see availability.

To ensure the air in your home remains safe into the future you should really consider keeping indoor plants throughout your home. Also it is a good idea to use an air purifier with a HEPA filter once or twice a week.

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