Asthma, Cancer, More: The Dangers of Inhaling Paint Fumes

The Dangers of Inhaling Paint FumesEveryone knows that paint fumes are toxic and can negatively impact your health. This is a particularly big problem for people working in construction, manufacturing, and auto detailing. While water based paints and acrylics are generally harmless, oil based paints, which impart a glossy finish, can be harmful to your health.

Oil based paints contain solvents that release volatile organic compounds (VOC). These chemicals evaporate as you apply the paint and can cause a number of health problems. You can minimize VOC inhalation by using face masks and down draft paint booths that pull the compounds away from your work area.

Here are some common health problems caused by inhaling paint fumes:

Headaches and Dizziness

Short-term exposure to the paint fumes may cause headaches and dizziness. When you inhale these chemicals, the solvents are absorbed into the blood stream. Constant exposure can eventually cause a person to black out.


Paint fumes irritate the nasal passages and may trigger an asthma attack. The airways of an asthmatic are always inflamed, making them particularly sensitive to VOCs. Asthmatics should always avoid rooms with fresh paint to avoid triggering an attack.


VOCs greatly affect air quality, and people who have constant exposure to these chemicals may increase their chances of developing cancer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), certain VOCs, such as methylene chloride, are carcinogenic. Methylene chloride is found in paint strippers and aerosol paints.

Organ and Neurological Damage

The EPA also cautions that exposure to the fumes in oil based paint can cause organ and neurological damage. Though it is still unclear what compounds cause damage exactly, it is best to avoid the inhalation of these paint fumes.

To avoid the health problems associated with paint fumes, it is best to follow industry regulations to prevent excessive exposure. VOCs are extremely harmful to your health.