How Long Do Paint Fumes Stay In Your System

There’s something heavily intoxicating in the smell of fresh paint, isn’t there? For many, it’s like an aphrodisiac, even. Little do we know, these paint fumes are anything but healthy for the human body. So, the question is – how long do paint fumes stay in your system after inhalation?

Paint fumes can stay in your system for 1-7 days or more, depending on the concentration of the fumes. Passive inhalation is slightly less harmful than active inhalation. Overall, it’s best to avoid fresh paint for 1-3 days so that the paint can dry up properly in the meantime.

While the smell is pretty intoxicating, it’s no joke that paint fumes contain toxic Volatile Organic Compounds. And today, let’s go over the lasting effects of these harmful organic compounds so you can be aware of the exposure duration.

How Do Paint Fumes Affect Your System?

Upon inhalation, paint fumes can lightly introduce the following symptoms to your system –

  • Nausea
  • Skin irritation
  • Watery eyes
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Pungent taste on the tongue
  • Dizziness/Drowsiness
  • Constant yawning
  • Blurriness in vision
  • Itchiness in the nose
  • Light coughing
  • Abrupt sneezing
  • Slight headache/migraine, etc.

If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, get away from the place at once. These symptoms normally take place after the initial exposure. As in, it’s your body trying to warn you that your system is rejecting the chemicals that you’ve been inhaling from the paint fumes.

Can Paint Fumes Cause Long-Term Health Issues?

Paint Fumes

Depending on the intensity and exposure period, paint fumes can cause both short-term and long-term health issues. The symptoms above are only the tip of the iceberg. Here’s an overview of a few of the long-term effects of paint fumes –

Abnormalities During Pregnancy

If a pregnant woman inhales paint fumes for an extended period, the chemicals can harm the fetus. The volatile compounds can induce anemic symptoms in the mother. Furthermore, the unborn child can have respiratory issues and even significant nerve damage from the chemicals. Miscarriage is also a possibility under certain circumstances.

Kidney Failure

Low-quality paint with high VOC levels can attribute to kidney failure over time. Normally, the kidney can filter out the unwanted compounds within a few days at most. But in cases of continuous exposure, the rate of dissociation falls below the rate of accumulation, which can prove to be fatal.

Respiratory Issues

Asthma patients shouldn’t go around inhaling paint fumes under any circumstances. Not only can the chemicals trigger an untimely asthma attack, but they can also reduce your lung capacity in the process. Paint fumes can also cause significant irritation and inflammation in the nasal passageway.

Minimizing The Health Effects Of Paint Fumes: 5 Preventative Measures

Health Effects Of Paint

From mere sneezing to cancer scares, paint fumes can have all possible outcomes. And the longer they stay in your system, the worse the situation can become.

Take a look at the following 5 precautions to both minimize and prevent the extent of such unwelcoming outcomes –

1. Always Read The Paint Labels

The best way to judge the quality of a specific type of paint is to read its label. It doesn’t matter whether it’s latex paint or acrylic paint. The price tag also has nothing to do with the quality and in turn, the toxicity of the fumes.

So, if you’re looking to DIY the painting procedure as an amateur painter, we’d suggest going over paint labels first. Only choose the paint with the lowest VOC levels to decrease the chances of harmful particles getting inside your system. Again, you can pursue the services of a paint contractor to determine the quality and stability of a certain type of paint.

2. Arrange For Proper Ventilation

Always arrange for proper ventilation after painting a room. That way, the fumes can evaporate much faster. You can keep the room enclosed while painting so that the paint doesn’t dry up too fast. But after finishing the procedure, make sure to open the doors and the windows for better ventilation.

It can take up to 3-4 days until the paint dries up completely. It’s better to avoid the newly-painted rooms during this time so you don’t accidentally inhale the paint fumes.

3. Use Cold Water To Get Rid Of Irritation

If you do end up inhaling a significant amount of paint fumes, wash your face and hands with cold water immediately. Taking a cold shower can help a lot as well. The cold water will get rid of the skin irritation and provide sensory relief.

4. Wear Masks & Goggles While Mixing Paint

Surely you’ve wondered before – Can You Use Interior Paint Outside?

And the answer is yes if you have the means to properly mix interior and exterior paint to achieve a workable consistency. However, since you’ll be handling the paint directly while doing this, make sure to put both masks and goggles on.

While the fumes may not irritate you right off the bat, rest assured that the particles will cause significant harm later on. Hence, unless you want to deal with long-term health effects, use masks or full-face respirators during the process.

5. Seal The Paint Cans Properly

Whether it’s interior or exterior paint, don’t forget to seal off the paint cans after using them. Otherwise, the paint fumes will continue to evaporate in the presence of air and humidity. And that’ll increase the chances of accidental inhalation.

How do paint fumes affect health?

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can paint fumes end up being carcinogenic?

Yes, if the paint quality is cheap and it contains pollutant chemicals, it can end up being carcinogenic. Paint fumes are often attributed to lung cancer due to excessive inhalation. Alternatively, there’s a history of commercial paint causing bladder cancer in painters.

Q: Why does fresh paint smell but old paint doesn’t?

Fresh paint goes through the evaporation process after application. As the paint dries, some of the chemicals start to evaporate from the liquid paint, resulting in a sweet smell.

Q: Can paint fumes be deadly to human beings?

Paint fumes can be deadly under the influence of existing underlying conditions. For instance – if someone already has asthma, and continues to inhale paint fumes, then it can become deadly at a moment’s notice. Apart from extreme asthma attacks, prolonged inhalation of paint fumes over the years can lead to acute respiratory failures as well.

Q: Can you get high by inhaling paint fumes?

Paint fumes can’t conventionally cause delirium or induce the feeling of ‘getting high’. However, it can have an extremely nauseating effect on some people. In turn, ignorant people inhale the toxic fumes to experience that light-headed feeling.

Q: Why does fresh paint have such an intoxicating smell?

Paint and paint thinners involve aromatic hydrocarbons such as Toluene, Benzene, Acetylene, etc. These aromatic hydrocarbons have a sweet intoxicating smell. In addition to smelling nice, they also help you to relax your body & mind.

Before You Go

At this point, you should know better than to inhale paint fumes directly, no matter how nice they smell. While renovating and painting, put on masks or respirators so that the toxic chemicals don’t get inside the system.

And lastly, interested in knowing more about the paint condition during renovation projects? Then you can check out the following article – Does Paint Dry Darker Or Lighter?

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