Hazards of surface coatings
The major constituents of most paints can be grouped into four general
Substances can enter the body through inhalation, absorption through
the skin, or ingestion, with the most common route being inhalation.
There is a risk of chemicals entering the body during mixing, application
and/or clean up when using the paint.
Spray application presents the greatest hazard as the applicator is
not just exposed to the highly volatile portion of the paint (solvents)
but also to the paint mist.
What are the hazards?
Resins themselves are not classified as toxic, however, it is possible
for some resins to be asthma causing agents and induce inflammation
of the mucous membranes and nose.
Some also react with the moist tissues of the respiratory system
and eyes, causing irritation, or can be very irritating to the skin.
Although there are a lot of misconceptions about isocyanates,
it is important to understand the main health issues and these are
addressed under Polyurethane Paints and Lacquers.
The typical effects of overexposure to isocyanates include chills,
fever, flu like symptoms and tightness of the chest.
Epoxies, polyamines and polyamides have been known to cause dermatitis.
When skin contact does occur, wash thoroughly with lukewarm water
Lead and Zinc/Lead Chromates: the toxic effects of these are well
documented. Lead poisoning symptoms include general weakness, loss
of appetite, inability to sleep, irritability, pains in the muscles,
joints and abdomen, mental retardation, anaemia, sterility, central
nervous system disorders and reproductive effects. Zinc/Lead Chromates
have been implicated in lung cancer of workers handling these pigments.
Pigments in the finished paint are locked up by encapsulation
in the resinous binder, however, sanding creates dusts in which
pigments are more bio-available.
Solvents cause headaches, drowsiness and unconsciousness, irritation
to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract, and central nervous system
depression with similar symptoms to drunkenness. People can become
addicted to some of these solvents and drinking alcohol during the
day may increase the toxic risks of these solvents.
Cleaning the hands in solvents such as turpentine will de-fat
the skin and can cause dermatitis. Repeated exposure may result
in chromic dermatitis.
Most solvents used in paints are highly flammable so care needs
to be taken that there are no sources of ignition available to the
solvent or to solvent/air mixtures.
Empty drums contain residues of solvents, which can be more dangerous
than full drums, as the danger of explosion is greater.
Additives may irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory organs.
The spray mists of paint
Whatever the brand or chemical nature of the paint, the spray mist of
that paint will contain resins, pigments, solvents and additives. The
spray applicator must ensure that the spray mist is not inhaled, and
that suitable precautions are taken so it does not get onto skin or