Are you using pregnancy safe paint?

Paint is a very important component of indoor air quality, which the EPA rates as one of the top five risks to human health. Many paints contain VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) which can lead to short or long term health complications.

Formaldehyde, benzene, diethyl phthalate, and dibutyl are common VOC’s used in paint as solvents and preservatives and emit the “new paint smell.” Oil based paint has the highest level of VOC’s. Additionally, pigment chemicals can include lead, cadmium, and chromium. You need to be careful when choosing a pregnancy safe paint as a no-VOC paint can become a VOC paint with addition of color or pigment.

According to the EPA, human reactions to these compounds vary, but common side effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, and damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. VOC’s can also trigger asthma attacks. Some chemicals can cause cancer in animals and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Babies and children are more susceptible to these gasses as they have higher breathing rates and their lungs are still developing. On a per body weight basis, children breathe twice as much air as an average adult, making them much more prone to the chemicals in the air. It is also important to note that the body uses enzymes to chemically detoxify and eliminate chemicals. Children have lower levels of these enzymes making it more difficult for them to metabolize.

Reducing the VOC Risk
Choose paints without solvents, preservatives, VOC’s, acrylic copolymer, anti-microbial agents, preservatives, and ethylene glycol. This choice is particularly important in the nursery where your child will have prolonged exposure.

Open the windows in your home when painting and applying stains. Most importantly, paint any room in your house as far in advance as possible before bringing your baby home. This will allow VOC’s time to off-gas.

Lead Paint
Lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today. The main source of exposure to lead is ingesting paint chips and inhalation of dust. Lead was a common additive in paints up to and including the year 1978 after which it’s use was banned in the US.

So why is lead paint returning to the forefront of child safety 30 years later? The majority of toys (and many other products for that matter) are manufactured overseas in countries like India, China, and Taiwan. China has been in the news of late as major toy companies have had recall after recall of toys containing lead based paint that were manufactured there.

Lower levels of lead can cause adverse health effects on the central nervous system, kidney, and blood cells and has been linked to child retardation and behavioral problems.

Reducing the Risk of Lead in Paint
If your house was built prior to 1978, the paint should be tested for lead. If your paint tests positive, you should hire a professional to remove. This is not a project to take on by yourself as you could cause more harm than good.