Engineering Controls Database

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Museums (Paints and Surface Coatings)

Paint and coating products contain many chemicals that are potentially hazardous through inhalation, absorption through skin contact as well as ingestion.
Most paintings and coatings, particularly alkyd materials, have a noticeable odor that should be a warning sign of exposure. Many of the components of both alkyd and acrylic products produce eye, nose and respiratory irritation which are normally transient but, while these symptoms may disappear soon after cessation of exposure, they are an indicator that exposure has occurred. The effects of chronic exposure, including organ damage, central nervous system problems and cancer, can develop as a result of inhalation of low levels of these materials over an extended period of time.

Dermal exposure to many substances of this type is obvious since paints are usually designed specifically to have visually noticeable colors. Here also the short term acute exposure may result in effects which are relatively minor but can produce more serious cumulative problems. Many of the hydrocarbon solvents will dissolve the oils and fat from the skin, producing problems which would normally clear after a few days. Some of the pigments, especially the metal compounds, will also produce skin ulcers. Repeated or prolonged exposure, however, can cause more serious skin problems including cancer, so the appearance of dry or scaly skin should be recognized as an indicator of exposure. Solvents and to a lesser degree binders and even some pigments can pass through the skin and be absorbed in the blood for transfer to the organs. This can result in the same problems and exposure by inhalation.

Ingestion of any paint or coating would, like inhalation and dermal exposure, seem obvious due to the anticipated taste of these materials. This taste, however, could well be masked by food or drink. Like other work places where potentially hazardous materials are present, workers should not be eating or drinking when working with paints or coatings.
In any work place where the use of paint or coatings is a common occurrence there should be sufficient local exhaust ventilation to remove vapors and aerosol from the air. If spray paint application is common, the use of a spray booth should be considered. If paints and coatings are used only occasionally, or for short periods of time, general exhaust ventilation should be sufficient. These materials should not be used in unventilated or closed spaces, nor should equipment be cleaned in such locations.

The storage of paints, coatings, thinners, stripping and removing compounds, and all similar products should be in a well ventilated area where they are protected from extremes of temperature and physical hazards. These materials should not be stored near acid or alkalis, bleaches or other oxidizing compounds, or other incompatible materials as might be listed on a material safety data sheet.

Personal protective equipment may be necessary to prevent inhalation or contact with skin or eyes. The use of eye or face protection, long sleeves, gloves or other coverings to protect the skin is good practice. The use of an air purifying respirator to reduce inhalation exposure is not as favorable of a practice as the use of local exhaust ventilation but is on occasion a necessary practice. If respiratory protection is used, a NIOSH respirator certified as recommended by the material safety data sheet should be selected as part of a respiratory protection program.
234-03; 234-05-A; 234-05-B; 234-05-D; 234-05-E; 234-05-F; 234-05-G-1; 234-05-G-2; 234-05-H; 234-05-I; 234-05-J; 234-05-K; 234-05-L; 234-05-M;