Stay away from that wall, it can cause cancer!


Wall Paint meme

There was a time when I used to get happy with the mere announcement by mom, “Our house will get painted soon”!

It was the childhood excitement which didn’t fade away with the passing years. On the contrary, my love for paints& its smell grew stronger every day.

A freshly painted wall always seemed so new, vibrant & serene until I came across the news article alleging paints to be one of the prime causes behind the occurrence of lung cancer. Briefly speaking, not the paint itself but the inhalation of its smell can prove to be fatal for our health.

In a 2010 report by Daily Mail it was revealed that the substances present in the paints, which are better known as Solvents & VOCs, are toxins that gets readily mixed with the air we inhale resulting into several kind of allergies & irritations.

I had no idea what these substances are & I believe there are so many “paint lovers” out there who, just like me, love the smell of paints but aretotally unaware of these crucial health related facts.

Let’s explore together, how these substances can harm us & what the way outs are to deal with this problem?

Solvent – The criminal in colorful disguise!

wall paint prefabricated homes

There are generally two types of paints available in the market.

The water-based paint is popularly known as acrylic emulsion. This variety is less harmful for humans and for the environment.

The other type is solvent-based. Now, brace yourself folks as this information can cause you a mini heart attack! As per Dr. Keith Prowse, of the British Lung Foundation, when solvents get absorbed by the lungs, it reaches the blood stream which in turn gives you headache & causes dizziness.

The doctor further adds, “If you paint for too long in a room with no ­ventilation, it can even cause a blackout!”

Solvents are used in most of the walls for bringing a glossy finish to it and when this paint dries up, it releases a harmful substance called VOCs.

Solvents can be derived from natural as well as synthetic sources. It has been found that solvent of any variety be it natural or synthetic, can prove to be hazardous for the environment as well as the health condition of living beings.

VOCs- Another partner in crime!

The volatile organic compounds abbreviated as VOCs are the key elements that make the paint toxic.

It is an organic compound made up of carbon which evaporates when kept in room temperature. Chemicals like toluene, trichloroethane, methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, styrene, benzene, hexane, heptane contain VOCs.

Today VOC has become a household name since it is found in most of the household items like glue, carpets, vinyl floor, home maintenance products, disinfectants, drywell, room fresheners, varnishes, waxes and of course PAINTS!

I mentioned paint in capital & bold because it is the central part of our concern for the moment.

Getting back to VOCs, it’s nothing but the byproduct of either solids or liquids in paint. After the application of paint, when the paint dries up, this by product gets diffused into the surrounding which is generally addressed as paint fumes.

This toxin tends to accumulate at higher concentrations within the house than outside it. Any person inhaling this highly concentrated VOC is vulnerable to health disorders. There are several factors that could be held responsible for the generation of VOCs, out of which transportation wins the race.

VOC Emissions contributor

 VOC Emissions contributor

The traces of VOCs in the paint result in a typical powerful smell which earlier used to allure me strongly (It doesn’t anymore, thanks to the news article). However, it is not right to assume that a lower intensity of the pungent odorindicates a lower amount of VOC included in the paint.

Health hazards caused by Paints

According to the World Health Organization, a professional painter is 20% more likely to suffer from cancer, particularly lung cancer than a person who is not directly exposed to paints. As per experts, the solvents that has “chloro” or “chloride” in their names (basically the chlorinated solvents), are responsible for causing cancers.Benzene is known for causing leukemia and carbon tetrachloride for liver cancer.

headache due to paint

Inhalation of VOCs is also accountable for the eye, nasal, skin & throat irritation. In large quantities, ­animal ­studies have linked these chemicals to birth defects, cancers and damage to the central ­nervous system.

Specialists of Denmark have recognized a ­neurological condition caused by long term exposure to solvents which is known as ‘painter’s dementia’.

A study by Sheffield and Manchester University states that men who deal in paints are often found suffering from several fertility related issues.

It has been established that all solvents can impact the central nervous system (CNS) giving rise to “narcosis.” The symptoms of narcosis comprise of nausea, dizziness, intoxication, headache & fatigue. The person suffering from these symptoms can even die when solvents are inhaled in greater doses.Research says that a person is likely to experience insomnia, apathy, depression, memory loss etc. when exposed to solvents over a prolonged period of time.

Reduce the pain from Paints

By now you must have become enough worried about how to stop these toxins from intruding your peaceful & colorful home? As they say, prevention is better than cure, therefore experts recommend the application of eco paints from the very beginning (At Prefab Infra we are aware of the paint hazard and strongly recommend nontoxic/natural paints for our clients). Some popular varieties are chalk paints, milk paints and clay paints.

In order to differentiate between traditional paints & eco paints, take a whiff of both. The traditional one has that strong smell of fresh paint while the eco paints are usually odorless.

The eco paints from the brush are easily removed by water and thus white spirit or turpentine is not required which again are prospective sources of solvents.

Do not forget to ventilate the room that is getting colored in order to avoid any kind of suffocation. It is advisable not to use the room unless the paint is completely dry.

Make sure that whoever is entering the newly painted room, be it the painter himself, your kid or your pet dog, is wearing a respirator’ mask to avoid any kind of health impairments caused by the paint.

Lastly, my personal suggestion would be, just forget the paint and bring out the artist in you. Consider yourself lucky if you have kids. Together you guys can create memorable pieces of art on the walls and that too within your budget. From drawing a beautiful maple tree to an ugly duckling, let your creativity rule those walls.

And if you are still wondering what to draw on those walls, then simply color your palms & put the imprint on the empty walls. I bet your guests can’t skip it without praising (*wink*).

hand print prefab

Image Courtesy:,,,

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