Protecting oneself from chemical exposure is the key to enjoying a long working life. In the coatings industry this is particularly important since coatings and paint materials contain any number of harmful components. With what they are designed to do, they have to. Paints must withstand the weather, corrosion, rigorous abrasion, and the penetrating rays of the sun.
Paint manufacturers and the chemists do their parts in helping to ensure the lasting quality and endurance of paint.
The painter is the one who applies a coating for a specific situation. Therefore, he is the one subject to the conditions produced in applying the material.
This is to inform you that you are in charge of what and how you are exposed to.
Here’s an example: You are assigned to paint the ceiling deck of a retail store. You assess the situation and realize there is certain equipment you will need. Namely a spray pump, fluid line, a spray gun, and possibly plastic to cover what doesn’t get painted.
If you are a seasoned professional, then you also know you must protect yourself. You know this because you have prior experience with the product you are going to use. The paint is composed of various inorganic solids and evaporative solvents which are dangerous to one’s health. But, that’s what the job calls for.
Under most circumstances, most anyone would say, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Figure out how you can paint the ceiling without becoming seriously ill. This was a major problem in the early 1900’s when there was lead in the paint, and painters had virtually no breathing protection. Their life expectancy was often shorter.
Today, however, the toxicity of the various paint chemicals has met its match. If the painter “works smart”, there is no longer a reason for him to suffer.
This is what’s available to the painter and to everyone serious about their health:
- Self- Enclosed Breathing Apparatus. Similar to what firefighters and scuba divers use, it provides the optimum conditions for breathing in a toxic environment. It is composed of a compressed oxygen air tank and a facial mask or a complete helmet.
- An Inorganic Vapor Respirator. This is the painter’s most universal tool next to the brush and spray gun. It is a face mask design containing filter cartridges which remove substances in the air before you inhale. The cartridges become filled with contaminants and must be replaced regularly. Caution: When in an enclosed space, the solvent concentration can build up to a point where the cartridges cannot prevent the solvent vapor from coming through. If you know this before hand, opt for the Self-Enclosed breathing system.
- Air Flow Mask. This is a simple system in which air is supplied to a transparent type bag mask. The incoming air blows through the mask providing you with breathable air, as well as blowing through an opening the size of your mouth and eyes. This current of air keeps any dust and overspray from entering. It is not recommended for keeping out high evaporative solvent vapor.
- Full Body Suit. It is a thin cloth suit which can be used under many conditions. A mechanic could use one to keep the grease and oil off of him. For the painter, it prevents paint overspray, paint platter and a minimal amount of solvents from coming in contact with his skin. In this, it keeps the chemical from being absorbed out into the bloodstream. The body suit is very important to have on hand.
- Head Sock, Eye Protection and Gloves. These are accessory items that provide additional protection. They are one of the best precautions you can take, because they protect vital areas. Sometimes these items are taken for granted. You may take them off and forget to put them back on because you’re so busy. Big mistake!
I once was working on a wood striping project, when my gloves became dissolved up by the solvent. I kept on working without them.
Later, when I had finished, I saw that my hands were extremely dry. I then thought to myself, “I wonder how much of that solvent made it into my bloodstream and into my brain. I felt a little queasy and I was wearing a respirator. See what can happen?
Recommendations: Be your own advocate. It’s your health that will suffer if you aren’t.
* When first starting to work with a product, read the manufacturer’s label where it concerns
*My own personal advice: Have a box or container in your vehicle in which to store only safety
*Always keep a spare set of respirator cartridges. When you can’t find any, you’re likely to
*Some products are against the law for use to consumers. This means they are even more toxic.
When working with paints, coatings, and solvents, toxicity is self evident. Prepare yourself so you will live to paint another day, and not one in which your family loses you.
Toxic exposure is everyone’s business on the job.
Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”
Copyright 2016. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.