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Lung diseases

Spraying Latex Paint

05/03/2010

Question:

Hi, over the last couple weekends I was spray painting latex paint onto doors. Most of the time I wore a N95 paper mask, but there may have been an hour or so when I was outside spraying that I didn`t. I know I had some spray in my face (windy day) and I was concerned about getting particles in my lungs. I read the warning label after doing this and of course found that the paint contains crystaline silica which can cause cancer. They warn to stay out of the mist and also not to sand, or abrade the material. I was curious if I should be concerned about this level of exposure, or if this is generally a long-term exposure issue? The paint can says it is long-term exposure, but I just wanted a second opinnion. I haven`t had any trouble breathing or anything since I did this. I was wondering if I should go and be checked out.

Thanks!

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One last question regarding the question about spraying latex paint.....they also list Zinc on the warning label. I wouldn`t assume this is an inhalation hazard or a delayed type of problem like crysaline silica can be. Would I be correct and assume my short-term exposure shouldn`t be an issue? What would the issue with Zinc be...would it be long-term exposure for the guys who work in it everyday?

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One last thing to mention, the Zinc warning was for Zinc Oxide (in latex paint) as I understand it. I did talk with a poison control center and they didn`t feel I was at any risk for either Zinc Oxide, or Crystaline Silica because the exposure was so low....They indicated that the Zinc oxide would have been an acute issue if I had one...not a long-term risk. Is this accurate and should I have any concern here?

Thanks so much!

Answer:

I think the poison control center is correct on these questions. The silica exposure is minimal. 

You are correct that the greatest risks from any environmental agents are to those who work with them 8 hours per day, 5 or 6 days per week for 30 to 40 years. Lung cancer is a risk from chronic silica exposure, but the biggest issue is silicosis, which causes a stiffening of the lung, making it difficult to breathe. This usually takes 20 to 30 years to develop.

As for the zinc oxide, the harmful effects of breathing it typically are associated with fumes from welding and brazing. It is recommended not to weld galvanized steel for example, which can cause neurological problems. If you have no symptoms, it is unlikely you have anything to worry about. Your instincts were good in using the mask, and it sounds like in the future you will use the mask until you finish the job.

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Response by:

J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN J Mac Crawford, PhD, RN
Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
College of Public Health
The Ohio State University