Most parents would want to do all their nursery preparation by themselves, including painting the whole place with colors they love. However, there remains the question of how safe it is for pregnant women to do so. As the vapor of solvents is harmful to the body, breathing in paint vapors is not good for anyone, let alone pregnant women. So, is it okay for pregnant women to be around paint? Continue reading to find out!
Is It Okay to Paint While Pregnant?
Most type of paints available in the market contains volatile compounds that can be harmful to the baby when the mother inhales the vapors. There aren’t many studies that show a safe level of exposure pregnant women can have to paint. Therefore it is generally advised that pregnant women stay away from paints or other volatile chemical compounds. The available types of paint in the market are as follows:
Oil-based paints are the most harmful ones as they contain harsh solvents called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The VOCs evaporate and cause headaches, eye irritation, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue when inhaled. Volatile compounds such as Toluene in the paint can affect the development of the fetus in pregnant women. It may result in birth defects similar to fetal alcohol syndrome.
Acrylic and latex paints are water-based and relatively safer compared to oil paints. They can still contain tiny amounts of volatiles in the form of additives such as ethylene glycol or ethers that can be harmful.
Zero VOC Paints
These days, many manufacturers make paints that are marketed as zero VOC. Since these have the lowest volatile compounds, they are considered the safest for children or pregnant women. If pregnant women strongly feel the need to paint their nurseries, these are the best as long as adequate safety measures are followed.
Possible Risks of Painting During Pregnancy
The answer to the question “Can pregnant women paint?” comes down to the risks they are exposed to because of the paints and the painting method. Here are some of the risks involved:
1. Exposure to harmful solvents
Different paints use a mixture of solvents meant to improve the properties of paint or their drying times. The solvents are known to increase the chances of birth defects in babies. A study shows an adverse relationship between pregnant women’s exposure to industrial solvents and babies born with gastroschisis.
2. Exposure to lead
Although newer paints do not use lead, old paints from walls that may need to be stripped before applying a new coat could expose the pregnant woman to lead. Lead is known to increase the risk of a range of complications in pregnancy, such as miscarriage, impaired development of the nervous system, and decline of IQ and cognitive abilities.
3. Fumes from oil-based paint
There is a risk even from smelling paint while pregnant as oil-based paints give off fumes of spirits such as xylene, toluene, spirits, and other alkanes. It is advisable not to walk into a freshly painted room and keep the doors and windows open until all the odor is gone.
4. Spray painting
Risk is the highest with spray paints unless complete preventive measures, such as wearing a protective mask and suit, are taken. Spray paints work by turning paints into a fine colloidal mist that can be easily inhaled or settle on the skin. Off-the-shelf spray paints also contain a range of VOCs that are even more harmful than oil paints since they are meant to evaporate and dry faster.
5. Exposure to dust
Repainting a house requires extensive sanding and blasting operations that increase dust in the air, likely to settle on the skin or get inhaled. If the house is more than 30 years old, exposure to lead-based paint and other harmful chemicals from previous paints and surfaces is a risk.
When Should Pregnant Women Particularly Avoid Painting?
Expecting mothers are almost equally susceptible to risk from paints during all the trimesters. However, since the first trimester involves the most critical development processes, the fetus could be most vulnerable even to small doses of inhaled solvents.
Safety Precautions for Painting When Pregnant
Since a pregnant woman dealing with toxic paint fumes has more risks than a normal person, it is essential to take adequate precautions before starting. Precautions should be maintained even when entering a room with fresh paint. Inhaling or smelling the paint while pregnant is also potentially harmful to the baby. Here are some of the most important precautionary steps one can take:
1. Breathing Protection
The biggest risk of painting comes from the inhaled solvent vapors given off by the paint. It is essential to wear a respirator approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to avoid breathing in the chemicals. Respirators use special filters to scrub out the solvents, which ordinary dust masks cannot do.
2. Skin Protection
It is important to avoid direct contact with the chemicals in paint; hence, an expecting mother must fully cover herself up while painting. Using a disposable plastic worker suit can also protect against paint spills or splatter. Immediately wash any paint that comes in contact with the skin.
3. Keep the room well ventilated
The best way to clear out the vapors is to have good air circulation in the room. Keep all the doors and windows open while painting.
4. Be mindful of lead paint
If the house being repainted is more than 30 years old when lead was commonly used in paints, it is ideal to have the old paint removed by professionals before starting the new coat of paint.
5. Do not eat or drink in the room
Avoid eating food or drinking water or other beverages in the room that is being painted.
6. Watch your step
As the pregnancy bump begins to show, women tend to lose their balance a lot more. Try not to use stools or ladders and instead get someone to paint the high surfaces.
7. Wash up well
After the painting session, have a good shower and never use solvents to remove paint stuck to the skin.
8. Use safe paints
To make it safest, use paints that are zero VOC.
Most paints contain solvents that can be harmful to the expecting mother and her baby. It is ideal to use zero VOC paints and take full precautions, such as wearing a safety suit and respirator.