and existing paint safety
Most interior paint, stain and
stripper fumes can be flammable and hazardous to health. Always
open several windows or provide better-than-adequate ventilation
when painting, paint stripping, staining or cleaning up. NEVER
paint or use solvents, solvent-based paints, strippers, stains,
caulking or clean-up supplies near an open flame or pilot light
including furnace, and water heater. When working with solvent-based
materials it is best to wear a respirator (type of clean air
mask) which will be available at major paint stores. Do not sleep
in a freshly painted dwelling for at least two days if at all
When sanding, wear a proper dust mask to prevent particles from
entering the lungs and, if possible, use a power sander with
a sawdust collection bag. Read below for other considerations
or click to browse other safety articles.
What you Should
Know About Lead-Based Paint in Your Home: Safety Alert - CPSC
Lead-based paint is hazardous
to your health.
Lead-based paint is a major source
of lead poisoning for children and can also affect adults. In
children, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage
and can impair mental functioning. It can retard mental and physical
development and reduce attention span. It can also retard fetal
development, even at extremely low levels of lead. In adults,
it can cause irritability, poor muscle coordination, and nerve
damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body. Lead
poisoning may also cause problems with reproduction (such as
a decreased sperm count). It may also increase blood pressure.
Thus, young children, fetuses, infants, and adults with high
blood pressure are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead.
Children should be screened
for lead poisoning.
In communities where the houses are old and deteriorating, take
advantage of available screening programs offered by local health
departments and have children checked regularly to see if they
are suffering from lead poisoning. Because the early symptoms
of lead poisoning are easy to confuse with other illnesses, it
is difficult to diagnose lead poisoning without medical testing.
Early symptoms may include persistent tiredness, irritability,
loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, reduced attention span,
insomnia, and constipation. Failure to treat children in the
early stages can cause long-term or permanent health damage.
The current blood lead level
which defines lead poisoning is 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter
of blood. However, since poisoning may occur at lower levels
than previously thought, various federal agencies are considering
whether this level should be lowered further so that lead poisoning
prevention programs will have the latest information on testing
children for lead poisoning.
Consumers can be exposed to
lead from paint.
Eating paint chips is
one way young children are exposed to lead. It is not the most
common way that consumers, in general, are exposed to lead. Ingesting
and inhaling lead dust that is created as lead-based paint "chalks,"
chips, or peels from deteriorated surfaces can expose consumers
to lead. Walking on small paint chips found on the floor, or
opening and closing a painted frame window, can also create lead
dust. Other sources of lead include deposits that may be present
in homes after years of use of leaded gasoline and from industrial
sources like smelting. Consumers can also generate lead dust
by sanding lead-based paint or by scraping or heating lead-based
Lead dust can settle on floors,
walls, and furniture. Under these conditions, children can ingest
lead dust from hand-to-mouth contact or in food. Settled lead
dust can re-enter the air through cleaning, such as sweeping
or vacuuming, or by movement of people throughout the house.
Older homes may contain lead-based
Lead was used as a pigment and drying agent in "alkyd"
oil based paint. "Latex" water-based paints generally
have not contained lead. About two thirds of the homes built
before 1940 and one half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960
contain heavily leaded paint. Some homes built after 1960 also
contain heavily leaded paint. It may be on any interior or exterior
surface, particularly on woodwork, doors, and windows. In 1978,
the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission lowered the legal
maximum lead content in most kinds of paint to 0.06% (a trace
amount). Consider having the paint in homes constructed before
the 1980s tested for lead before renovating or if the paint or
underlying surface is deteriorating. This is particularly important
if infants, children, or pregnant women are present.
Consumers can have paint tested
There are do-it-yourself
kits available. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
has not evaluated any of these kits. One home test kit uses a
sodium sulfide solution. This procedure requires you to place
a drop of sodium sulfide solution on a paint chip. The paint
chip slowly turns darker if lead is present. There are problems
with this test, however. Other metals may cause false positive
results, and resins in the paint may prevent the sulfide from
causing the paint chip to change color. Thus, the presence of
lead may not be correctly indicated. In addition the darkening
may be detected only on very light-colored paint.
Another in-home test requires
a trained professional who can operate the equipment safely.
This test uses X-ray fluorescence to determine if the paint contains
lead. Although the test can be done in your home, it should be
done only by professionals trained by the equipment manufacturer
or who have passed a state or local government training course,
since the equipment contains radioactive materials. In addition,
in some tests, the method has not been reliable.
Consumers may choose to have
a testing laboratory test a paint sample for lead. Lab testing
is considered more reliable than other methods. Lab tests may
cost from $20 to $50 per sample. To have the lab test for lead
paint, consumers may:
Get sample containers from the
lab or use re-sealable plastic bags. Label the containers or
bags with the consumer's name and the location in the house from
which each paint sample was taken. Several samples should be
taken from each affected room (see HUD Guidelines discussed below).
Use a sharp knife to cut through
the edges of the sample paint. The lab should tell you the size
of the sample needed. It will probably be about 2 inches by 2
Lift off the paint with a clean
putty knife and put it into the container. Be sure to take a
sample of all layers of paint, since only the lower layers may
contain lead. Do not include any of the underlying wood, plaster,
metal, and brick.
Wipe the surface and any paint
dust with a wet cloth or paper towel and discard the cloth or
The U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD) recommends that action to reduce
exposure should be taken when the lead in paint is greater than
0.5% by lab testing or greater than 1.0 milligrams per square
centimeter by X-ray fluorescence. Action is especially important
when paint is deteriorating or when infants, children, or pregnant
women are present. Consumers can reduce exposure to lead-based
If you have lead-based paint,
you should take steps to reduce your exposure to lead. You can:
1. Have the painted item replaced. You can replace a door or other easily removed
item if you can do it without creating lead dust. Items that
are difficult to remove should be replaced by professionals who
will control and contain lead dust.
2. Cover the lead-based paint. You can spray the surface with a sealant or cover
it with gypsum wallboard. However, painting over lead-based paint
with non-lead paint is not a long-term solution. Even though
the lead-based paint may be covered by non-lead paint, the lead-based
paint may continue to loosen from the surface below and create
lead dust. The new paint may also partially mix with the lead-based
paint, and lead dust will be released when the new paint begins
3. Have the lead-based paint removed. Have professionals trained in removing
lead-based paint do this work. Each of the paint-removal methods
(sandpaper, scrapers, chemicals, sandblasters, and torches or
heat guns) can produce lead fumes or dust. Fumes or dust can
become airborne and be inhaled or ingested. Wet methods help
reduce the amount of lead dust. Removing moldings, trim, window
sills, and other painted surfaces for professional paint stripping
outside the home may also create dust. Be sure the professionals
contain the lead dust. Wet-wipe all surfaces to remove any dust
or paint chips. Wet-clean the area before re-entry.
You can remove a small amount
of lead-based paint if you can avoid creating any dust. Make
sure the surface is less than about one square foot (such as
a window sill). Any job larger than about one square foot should
be done by professionals. Make sure you can use a wet method
(such as a liquid paint stripper).
4. Reduce lead dust exposure. You can periodically wet mop and wipe surfaces
and floors with a high phosphorous (at least 5%) cleaning solution.
Wear waterproof gloves to prevent skin irritation. Avoid activities
that will disturb or damage lead based paint and create dust.
This is a preventive measure and is not an alternative to replacement
Professionals are available
to remove, replace, or cover lead-based paint.
Contact your state and local health departments lead poisoning
prevention programs and housing authorities for information about
testing labs and contractors who can safely remove lead-based
The U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD) prepared guidelines for removing
lead-based paint which were published in the Federal Register,
April 18, 1990, page 1455614614. Ask contractors about their
qualifications, experience removing lead-based paint, and plans
to follow these guidelines.
Consumers should keep children
and other occupants (especially infants, pregnant women, and
adults with high blood pressure) out of the work area until the
job is completed.
Consumers should remove all food and eating utensils from the
Contractors should remove all furniture, carpets, and drapes
and seal the work area from the rest of the house. The contractor
also should cover and seal the floor unless lead paint is to
be removed from the floor.
Contractors should assure that workers wear respirators designed
to avoid inhaling lead.
Contractors should not allow eating or drinking in the work area.
Contractors should cover and seal all cabinets and food contact
Contractors should dispose of clothing worn in the room after
working. Workers should not wear work clothing in other areas
of the house. The contractor should launder work clothes separately.
Contractors should clean up debris using special vacuum cleaners
with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters and should
use a wet mop after vacuuming.
Contractors should dispose of lead-based paint waste and contaminated
materials in accordance with state and local regulations.
Government officials and health
professionals continue to develop advice about removing lead-based
paint. Watch for future publications by government agencies,
health departments, and other groups concerned with lead-paint
removal and prevention of lead poisoning.
you Should Know About Using Paint Strippers - CPSC
IF NOT PROPERLY USED, PAINT
STRIPPERS ARE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH AND SAFETY.
Paint strippers contain chemicals that loosen paint from surfaces.
These chemicals can harm you if not used properly. Some paint
stripping chemicals can irritate the skin and eyes or cause headaches,
drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, or loss of coordination. Some
may cause cancer, reproductive problems, or damage of the liver,
kidney, or brain. Others catch fire easily. Proper handling and
use of paint strippers will reduce your exposure to these chemicals
and lessen your health risk.
General Safety Precautions
Paint strippers contain different chemicals, and the potential
hazards are different for various products. Each product has
specific safety precautions (see the section below on paint stripper
types). However, there are some general safety steps to keep
in mind when using any paint stripper. If you use paint strippers
frequently, it is particularly important that you follow these
1. Always read and follow all the instructions and
safety precautions on the label. Do not assume you already know
how to use the product. The hazards may be different from one
product to another, and the ingredients in individual products
often change over time. The label tells you what actions you
should take to reduce hazards and the first aid measures to use.
2. Wear chemical-resistant gloves appropriate to
the type of stripper being used (see manufacturer's instructions).
Common kitchen latex gloves do not provide enough protection.
3. Avoid getting the paint stripper on your skin
or in your eyes. Wear protective clothing and goggles appropriate
for the project and type of stripper.
4. Use paint strippers outdoors if possible. If you
must use them indoors, cross-ventilate by opening all doors and
windows. Make sure there is fresh air movement throughout the
room. Ventilate the area before, during, and after applying and
stripping. Never use any paint stripper in a poorly ventilated
area. If work must be done indoors under low ventilation conditions,
consider having the work done professionally instead of attempting
5. If you must work indoors, always work so the stripper
fumes are blowing away from you and to the outside. A fan can
be used to improve cross-ventilation and to ensure fresh air
movement. A fan is particularly important for nonflammable products
that evaporate quickly, such as methylene chloride. Electrical
sparks from fans may increase the chance of flammable paint stripper's
fumes to catch fire.
6. Do not use flammable paint strippers near any
source of sparks, flame, or high heat. Do not work near gas stoves,
kerosene heaters, gas or electric water heaters, gas or electric
clothes dryers, gas or electric furnaces, gas or electric space
heaters, sanders, buffers, or other electric hand tools. Open
flames, cigarettes, matches, lighters, pilot lights, or electric
sparks can cause the chemicals in the paint strippers to suddenly
7. Only strip paint with chemicals that are marketed
as paint strippers. Never use gasoline, lighter fluid, or kerosene
to strip paint.
8. Dispose of paint strippers according to the instructions
on the label. If you have any questions, ask your local environmental
sanitation department about proper disposal.
TYPES OF PAINT STRIPPERS
Most paint strippers are solvent-based. Solvents dissolve the
bond between wood and paint. Solvents also can dissolve other
materials, including the latex or rubber of common household
or dish washing gloves. Some solvents will irritate or burn the
skin. Some solvents may cause serious health effects even if
contact does not immediately cause pain. In addition, many solvents
evaporate quickly and you can easily inhale them. Inhalation
of these solvents can produce health effects immediately or years
It is especially important to use paint strippers containing
solvents that evaporate quickly either outdoors or in an indoor
area with strong fresh air movement. Some paint strippers contain
solvents that do not evaporate quickly. When using these strippers
indoors, be sure to open windows and doors to provide fresh air
movement in and out of the work site. You should always follow
the manufacturer's instructions and safety precautions. Use the
amount of stripper recommended by the manufacturer to avoid buildup
of harmful fumes.
The different types of solvent-based paint strippers and their
potential hazards and safety precautions are:
== Methylene chloride (also called dichloromethane, or DCM) --
Methylene chloride is the most commonly used chemical in
paint strippers. Methylene chloride products come in two varieties.
One type is nonflammable, while the other type is flammable.
The flammable paint strippers have less methylene chloride but
have other flammable chemicals, including acetone, toluene, or
Methylene chloride causes cancer in laboratory animals. The U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission (CPSC) consider the chemical to be a potential
cause of cancer in humans. Methylene chloride evaporates quickly,
and you can inhale it easily. Breathing high levels of methylene
chloride over short periods can irritate the eyes, skin, nose,
and lungs. It can also cause dizziness, headache, and lack of
coordination. Your body changes some inhaled methylene chloride
to carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide lowers the blood's ability
to carry oxygen. This can cause problems for people with heart,
lung, or blood diseases who use methylene chloride paint strippers
indoors without fresh air cross-ventilation. High exposures to
methylene chloride for long periods can also cause liver and
- It is very important to reduce
your exposure to methylene chloride vapors.
- It is very important to have
a lot of fresh air when using methylene chloride products.
- Use methylene chloride paint
strippers outdoors if possible. If you must use them indoors,
open all doors and windows to ensure that the fresh air is moving
in and out of the room.
- For indoor use of nonflammable
methylene chloride strippers, also use a fan to keep fresh air
moving throughout the work area. Electrical sparks from fans
may increase the chance of flammable paint strippers fumes to
- The safest place to use flammable
methylene chloride strippers is outdoors away from any source
of sparks, flame, or high heat.
== Acetone, toluene, and methanol
These chemicals are commonly
used together. All three chemicals evaporate quickly and are
very flammable. Breathing high levels of these chemicals can
cause a variety of effects, including drowsiness, dizziness,
and headache. Breathing high levels of toluene may harm unborn
children. Breathing very high levels for a long period may cause
brain damage. Toluene and methanol are poisonous if swallowed.
To avoid fire and health problems, it is very important to use
products containing these chemicals only in areas with plenty
of fresh air.
Do not work near an open flame, pilot lights, or electrical sparks
when using flammable paint strippers. Do not use strippers near
gas stoves, kerosene heaters, gas or electric water heaters,
gas or electric clothes dryers, gas or electric furnaces, gas
or electric space heaters, sanders, buffers, or other electric
== N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP)
Excessive contact with NMP may cause skin swelling, blistering,
and burns. These skin reactions may not appear until some time
after exposure. N-methylpyrrolidone can readily get into the
body through the skin and may cause health problems. NMP may
cause reproductive problems and harm to unborn children.
- It is very important to wear
chemical-resistant gloves and avoid skin contact when using this
- Wash hands immediately after
use, even when wearing gloves.
- Gloves should fit properly and
be chemical-resistant. Common kitchen latex gloves do not provide
- Avoid using this product for
extended periods in an enclosed area without open doors or windows
to the outside for cross-ventilation.
== Dibasic esters (DBE), including
dimethyl adipate ester, dimethyl succinate ester, and dimethyl
glutarate ester --
Much less is known about the possible health effects of these
chemicals than about most of the other paint stripping chemicals.
Some people using DBE products without fresh air have reported
temporary blurred vision. Repeatedly breathing DBE damages the
cells lining the nose of laboratory animals. Some strippers include
a mixture of DBE products and NMP.
- Avoid using this product for
extended periods in an enclosed area without open doors or windows
to the outside for cross-ventilation.
- Use appropriate protective clothing
and provide fresh air to the work site when using these products.
CAUSTIC-BASED STRPPERS (NOT
== Caustic alkalis --
Caustic alkalis react with the paint coating and loosen it from
the surface. One of the chemicals in this type of stripper is
sodium hydroxide (lye). Some people do not use caustic alkalis
because caustic products can darken wood and raise the grain.
Caustics can cause severe burns to skin and eyes even on short
contact. Therefore, be very careful to keep caustic chemicals
away from skin and eyes and wear protective clothing. If contact
occurs, wash off immediately with cold water. Caustics are also
highly toxic if swallowed.
- It is very important to avoid
skin and eye contact when using caustic alkalis.
- Use gloves that fit properly
and are appropriate for caustic alkalis.
- Wear appropriate protective
clothing and goggles when using caustic alkalis.
OTHER TYPES OF PAINT STRIPPERS
Some paint strippers have a citrus smell or make "environmentally
friendly" claims. However, these paint strippers may be
hazardous despite the smell and environmental claims.
It is important to use appropriate
protective clothing and fresh air for cross-ventilation when
using these products.
For more information on indoor
air quality, contact:
Washington, DC 20460
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, DC 20207
TTY for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing or people
with speech impairments: 800-638-8270.
Consumers can report product hazards to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This document may be reproduced without charge, in whole or in
part, without permission, except for uses that imply that EPA
or CPSC considers one type of paint stripper to be better or
worse than another.
EPA 747-F -95-002