6 Safety Myths You Believe

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ecently 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 Scared

[pullquote-right]An 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.[/pullquote-right]

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

Golden Artist Colors, Inc. Spray Pictogram for Cadmium products

Golden Artist Colors, Inc. Spray Pictogram for Cadmium products

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.

Tyler Provick

Tyler Provick is a writer and a gamer that likes to combine his two interests and share them with the community.

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3 responses

  1. Oil-soaked rags, prime example being linseed oil, are a spontaneous combustion hazard. Solvent-soaked rags are not. Linseed oil is not a solvent. Solvent-soaked rags can contribute fuel to a fire and need to be managed properly. Oil-soaked rags can actually start a fire all by themselves. I thought it best to point out the difference. Thanks for your entertaining blog post! — Andrew Gondzur, Certified Safety Professional

  1. July 6, 2015

    […] After giving both ‘jacks a gloss coat of Future Floor Polish I used some oil paints to add some grim and depth to the model. This is a technique I picked up from building model airplanes and decided it would fit well on these miniatures. I just coated the miniature with the oil paint and pulled most of it off with a rag before it dried. If you use this technique you need to make sure that you are working in a well ventilated area. Even if you can’t smell the solvent doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. […]

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