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How toxic is oil-based paint?

Arapaho-Rd
July 21, 2011

All of my trim is painted in BM Impervo oil-based trim paint. It's been 7 years and I need to re-do the paint. How long does oil-based paint give off toxic fumes? Will it continue to do this even after priming with oil and repainting with latex? Does the oil-based primer give off toxic fumes? I am so confused....

Comments (21)

  • ionized_gw

    You will remain confused. All paints give off gasses forever. Toxic is relative. The question has to be, is there any measurable effect on human health at those levels of toxicity and absolute levels of chemicals? Don't forget that animals have means of dealing with toxic chemicals that are in the environment.

    The follow-up question has to be, is the measuring scheme adequate? (Are the measurement of gasses sensitive enough and is the toxicology testing well-designed.) There are probably thousands of people arguing over this every day. Do you trust that regulators have tightened standards allowing paint on the market given tighter housing construction? If so, just go out and buy some paint.

  • paintguy1

    "All paints give off gasses forever"

    Hogwash.

    Both latex and oils paints contain solvents. With most oils, the primary solvent is paint thinner - thus the strong odor and the relatively high VOC levels (typically in the 250 - 400 gpl range). Most latex paints also contain solvents though far less than oils - the VOC's in latex come primarily from these solvents. All else being equal, the lower the VOC's in a coating, the fewer solvents and the lower the emissions (there are exceptions because there are solvents that can be used that do not count toward VOC's but these are rarely used in interior coatings.)

    If you are concerned about emissions, you can use a latex bonding primer and a low or 0 VOC topcoat. In general, everything that is going to leave that film should take place within about 2 weeks with about 98% flashing off within the first few days. The more ventilation you provide, the faster the curing process.

    In the scheme of things, the are far greater health concerns in your environment than the paint drying on your walls so please do not fret about it.

  • Arapaho-Rd

    Thanks so much for the responses....so once the paint or primer is dry, then the emissions stop?

  • ionized_gw

    I will stick to my guns. All paints give off gasses forever. The release rate will be an exponential decay. Sure, you can draw a line at 98%, but why not 95 or 99.99? Why not count those other solvents that you mentioned? Who decided what constitutes solvents that are included or not included in this VOC measure and are the reasons valid?

  • ajpace

    hogwash... hogwash. Dont confuse outgassing with curing. The typical water based paint may take up to three weeks to reach a full cure. Longer if the paint was applied too thick or in high humidity conditions.

    Offgassing is the release of unreacted chemical monomers that can occur for the lifespan of the product, but usually 2-4 years. I'll refer to you all to an article I co-authored a few years ago that deals with the "zero-voc" myth.

    Here is a link that might be useful: The ABC's of VOC's

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    It's amusing that the worst smelling paint I ever used (I mean instantaneous headache) was a low-voc fast drying oil primer. I think it was a Zinsser label. Oy gewalt, such a smell!
    Casey

  • ionized_gw

    arapaho , no, but why should you care. Many or most organic materials give off gasses. By organic, I mean both non-natural synthetic on the one hand, and living or once-living on the other. Our knowledge of what chemicals can hurt you and what chemicals will not is very limited, especially at low doses. That is why it is important to keep in mind that we have natural defense mechanisms. It is also important to keep in mind that what is OK for one individual might not be for another. There are no definite answers to your questions. Life is uncertainty.

    paintguy1

    I definitely am not confusing outgassing with curing. (Or is it off gassing since you used both terms? Sometimes parochial definitions can be confusing to outsiders who use universal definitions.) On one hand, you seem to be indicating in your latter post that volatile chemical release can go on for years. That is essentially what I wrote. In your former post you indicated that you disagree with that. In the article, you indicate that VOCs as, defined by the EPA, may not be measuring the right things with respect to human health. That is one point that I was trying to make (...is the measuring scheme adequate?).

    Why do you call propanol an aldehyde in the article that you co-authored? Is it because propanol is metabolized to acetone? That would be a ketone rather than an aldehyde, but they do have many similar properties. OTOH, maybe you meant to write propanal.

  • lazy_gardens

    I wouldn't drink the paint, bathe in it, and I wouldn't put it into a plastic bag and inhale the fumes ... but in a well-ventilated area you should not have much smell remaining after a couple of days.

    "toxic fumes" is so vague: what toxin are the sources that have apparently panicked you talking about and how are they testing for them.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    aj - dude - can appreciate the Ayurveda Essence Color point of view but I would be curious about how that's working out with consumers. . . because it strikes me as being a little "deep". There is brilliance behind the monochromatic palette arranged in purposeful steps but I am extremely curious about your experience with how consumers are able to digest such concepts and how they are *put out there* for consumer consumption. (to be clear, not talking about eating paint. :D)

    What's even more amazing is that someone in a decision-making capacity at AFM was able to digest such complex color concepts and take it to your market. Actually, I think that might be the most amazing part.

    Anyhoo, all the big words on this thread just kind of sashayed me over to the AFM site where I found a few more. A bounty of big paint and color thoughts and all very interesting! :)

  • Arapaho-Rd

    So are they discontinuing oil-based paint? Or is it just against the law to sell it in certain states? What is the concern about oil - the disposal of it? I appreciate all the info....

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    I believe the press for low-voc paints is that the aromatic solvents contribute to ozone, a form of air pollution, and a cause of asthma in a lot of people. Ozone occurs long after the solvents have "left the building" up in the stratosphere somewhere. The low-voc difference in oil-based products is that they removed the paint thinner (mineral spirits) from the formula. Often, painters frustrated with the truly awful application characteristics simply stir the paint thinner right back in.
    Casey

  • ionized_gw

    An important reason for limiting volatile organic chemical release is the production of ground-level ozone. The organic chemicals from engines, paint, and host of industrial processes. Ozone in the upper atmosphere is good. At ground level, at levels too high, it is bad for living things. Specifically, it is bad for your lungs.

    People with breathing problems are particularly vulnerable. I don't fall into that class. I do notice that when I am exercising heavily outdoors on high ozone days I do not breathe as well.

  • ajpace

    funcolors...Let me tell you, it took about 2 years to finalize the AE system, but AFM was behind it all the way. It started off as a feng shui color system, but we moved away from that after realizing that feng shui is interpreted differently by almost every practitioner we spoke with. Ayurveda is based on the laws of nature, which is consistent all over the globe. I could go on and on, but, most folk do get bored with it. AFM's website has some really interesting information about the system, along with a bio about the man who really put it all together...Mike Fallarino.

    How is it working? Not bad. The colors are really nice, whether you dig the science behind them or not.

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    Now if they could only make a tantric color system, I'd be on board.
    Casey

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    LMAO! Casey, you're such a hoot!

    Breaking complex color concepts down into bite-sized bits for consumers (pro and DIY) is not the easiest task in the world.

    The AE system is a great concept and it would be wonderful to see it simplified and streamlined a bit so even MORE folks could understand it, relate to it. It really is a neat slant on how to make color *meaningful* to the consumer when they are faced with what can be an overwhelming task -- choosing paint colors and understanding why (from the AE point of view) some colors are better choices over others.

  • PRO
    morse painting

    referencing article on painting over Benjamin Moore Oil Impurvo with Impurvo oil, you do not need to reprime. just give a wash if dirty, rinse, dry, light sanding with say 150, 180, 220 grit sandpaper or sponge, vacuum, maybe some deglosser - old school tolulene based for oils- note krud cutter makes good deglosser if your use latex paints or hybrids (sythetic oils). Then just paint your beautiful trim with your Impurvo. I would just suggest touching up if possible. your never fully match due to the yellowing of the paint but it looks better than bare wood nicks. I have come to appreciate very slight tints to my with trim paints - better hides. If your going to stick with Imurvo- suggest couple drops of yellow to start - but good paint mixers will have there knowledge formulas. Unfortunately, if you choose pastel bases, your coverage / hide will always be two coats- unless your very good or spray. If you decide to take the plunge and convert to latex, Bejamine Moore advanced is the stuff. The jury is still out on whether to prime or not. I would recomend a good undercoater - oid fresh start is still the best, Yet i this advanced has one in latex, but many stores don't stock.


    and then top coat - now you can touch up spots for years. Yet i still love oil on trim.

  • PRO
    Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

    being this thread is 5 years old, it's probably been painted

  • David Jensen

    The solvent for "latex" paint is water, i.e. no VOC's from it. Latex paint can have some VOC's to control how the paint acts, but not as the solvent. Most flat wall paints now have less than 50 grams per liter of VOC's, many have zero VOC's.

    The most common complaint against latex paint smell is often an ammonia smell. Ammonia is not a VOC. VOC's are carbon rings. Obviously the old oil paints with their paint thinner solvents, were sky high in VOC's and their inherent smell.

    As others have stated, the concern with VOC's was mainly for the environment, not for physical human harm.

  • PRO
    Sombreuil

    Ammonia is a VOC. It is not scheduled as such by the EPA because is cannot contribute to smog; it does not react with sunlight that way in the atmosphere.

    Casey

  • ionized_gw

    VOC = Volatile Organic Compound.

    Ammonia has no carbon so it is not organic. It is volatile and can be an irritant. It's long-time use as a cleaning agent with no health effects has pretty much put it in a safe category.

  • David Jensen

    Organic - Inorganic is the great dividing line in chemistry. Organic concerns itself with Carbon containing substances. Under this definition, ammonia is not an organic substance.

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