6 Safety Myths You Believe
Recently I’ve been looking at buying oil paints in order to weather a 1/48 scale Spitfire I’m painting. I love acrylic paints and looking at what I’ll need for oils, and the health hazards associated with oils, is reminding me why. There are a lot of people using oil paint without problem but it did strike me how little I knew about the dangers. How much ventilation will I need if I am using paint thinner? I don’t know. Which makes me think that there are likely a good number of people who don’t know either and likely aren’t even asking. So, I’m going to do a little digging for myself and share my results.
If It Doesn’t Smell, It Isn’t Bad
One of the first things I looked into when I was contemplating using oil paints was an alternative to smelly and toxic paint thinner. Odorless mineral spirits and turpenoid have been around for some time and seem like the obvious choice. Still, I read up on them, and what I read surprised me: just because you don’t smell it doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful. Yes, odorless mineral spirits are recommended over traditional thinners but they still require proper ventilation. They are less of an irritant while you are using them but in high concentrations they can cause permanent central nervous system damage and death
Should I Be ScaredAn MSDS is a Material Safety Data Sheet and it will tell you what potential hazards a substance may contain, what the acute and chronic effects are, and how to protect yourself from them.
I’ve read the MSDS of a few brands of odorless mineral spirits and turpenoid. The only danger is from using them in an enclosed area without properly ventilation. Most mild over-exposures will result in very unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. All products I researched recommend cross ventilation as the method of keeping fumes below a dangerous concentration.
Acylic Paint is Safe to Airbrush
Acrylic paints are non-toxic, right? This means you should be able to airbrush them. The truth is that not all acrylic paints are non-toxic. If they are non-toxic they will be labelled as such. Most acrylic paint, including non-toxic paints, contain a solvent in addition to water. Some will contain enough of this solvent to be considered toxic. Read the labels of the paint before you use it so you know what you are using.
Even paint which is non-toxic may not be suitable for airbrush use. Vallejo Model Colour, a non-toxic acrylic paint, has a number of paints in the line which are marked with a Do Not Spray warning. This is because these paints may contain traces of Cadmium which is considered in the state of California to cause cancer. Vallejo Model Colour is not the only paint to contain these pigments so check the label of every paint you use.
Should I Be Scared
Excluding those colours with hazardous pigments acrylic paint is very safe to spray. This doesn’t mean it should be sprayed in an un-ventilated closet. Any fine particle, such as those created when an atomized paint dries in the air, isn’t particularily welcome in the lung. Some people clean or thin with ammonia or alcohol based products which can increase the risks. Cross ventilation or a dust mask, perferably both, is a good way to keep your lungs clean.
This next myth is a bit disgusting, you have been warned.