Spray paint operations can present several occupational health hazards to the operator as well as anyone in the immediate vicinity. These health hazards are common because most professional-grade spray paint cans contain volatile organic compounds. According to the US EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), these compounds are composed of several different chemicals that have short and long term health effects of the individuals exposed to the spray paint fumes.
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are organic chemical compounds whose composition makes it possible for them to evaporate under normal atmospheric conditions. These compounds are emitted as gases and/or vapors from certain solids or liquids and include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and/or long-term adverse health effects.1
Harmful VOCs are typically not acutely toxic, but instead have compounding long-term health effects. Researching their effects is difficult because the concentrations are usually low and the symptoms are slow to develop.5
|VOC||Exposure Limits||Symptoms||Organs Affected|
|Acetone||NIOSH REL: TWA 250 ppmOSHA PEL: TWA 1000 ppm||Irritation to the eyes, nose and throat; headache, dizziness, central nervous systems depression; dermatitis||Eyes, skin, respiratory systems, central nervous system|
|Xylene||NIOSH REL: TWA 100 ppmOSHA PEL: TWA 100 ppm||Irritation to the eyes, skin, nose and throat; dizziness, excitement, drowsiness, incoordination, staggering gait; corneal vacuolization; anorexia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain; dermatitis||Eyes, skin, respiratory systems, central nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, blood, liver and kidneys|
|Toluene||NIOSH REL: TWA 100 ppmOSHA PEL: TWA 200 ppm||Irritation to the eyes, nose; weakness, exhaustion, confusion, euphoria, dizziness, headache; dilated pupils, lacrimation; anxiety, muscle fatigue, insomnia; paresthesia; dermatitis; liver, kidney damage||Eyes, skin, respiratory system, central nervous system, liver, kidneys|
Common symptoms reported by occupants exposed to VOCs:
The degree to which a chemical exposure can affect health depends on:
While chemical concentrations are typically [recorded] at low levels, severe symptoms are possible under extreme [concentrations]. Severe symptoms include kidney and liver damage, and damage to the central nervous system.4
The basic principles for controlling the occupational environment consist of substitution of less hazardous materials; isolation of the hazard; and the use of local and general exhaust ventilation to remove contaminants from the workroom. Experience has shown that occupational hazards can be controlled by the use of one or more of these principles. 6
Ventilation is one of the most important engineering controls available to the industrial hygienist for improving or maintaining the quality of the air in the occupational work environment. Broadly defined, ventilation is a method of controlling the environment with air flow.7
When choosing a ventilation system, make sure to gather sufficient information about air volume and performance. Strong suction at the inlet of the booth is important as it will provide an effective source capture and containment of overspray particulates. This results in protecting the operator’s breathing zone as well as preventing unwanted spray particulate and odors from entering the general work area.
Sentry Air Systems, Inc. provides this information as a customer service, but cannot be responsible for its accuracy or completeness. It is recommended that competent legal authorities as well as safety and hygiene professionals be consulted.
Sentry Air Systems designs and manufactures high quality air purification and fume extraction systems. To demonstrate how effective our products are at removing hazardous fumes from workspace air, we use third parties to test our products.
The industrial hygiene reports listed below were specifically tested on commonly used VOCs in spray paint.
The reports below detail how our ductless spray hoods stand against rigorous testing.
OSHA defines a spraying area as “any area in which dangerous quantities of flammable vapors or mists, or combustible residues, dusts or deposits are present due to the operation of spraying processes.”8-a
In order to reduce exposure to these hazardous compounds, OSHA recommends that “all spraying areas [should] be provided with mechanical ventilation adequate to remove flammable vapors, mists, or powders to a safe location and to confine and control combustible residues so that life is not endangered. Mechanical ventilation shall be kept in operation at all times while spraying operations are being conducted and for a sufficient time thereafter to allow vapors from drying coated articles and drying finishing material residue to be exhausted.”8-b
An example of a proper ventilation system is a spray booth. OSHA defines a spray booth as “a power-ventilated structure provided to enclose or accommodate a spraying operation to confine and limit the escape of spray, vapor, and residue, and to safely conduct or direct them to an exhaust system.”8-c
For light-use spray paint touch ups, a ductless spray hood is a comparable and oftentimes less expensive alternative to ducted exhaust units. Ductless spray hoods act as a respiratory safety engineering control for the extraction and purification of aerosol spray paint fumes and particulate. While OSHA does not have explicit regulations regarding the definition and standards of ductless ventilation systems, these units utilize a series of pre-filters and filters to adequately remove hazardous particulates before air is vented back into the room; removing the need to duct into an exhaust line.