Accidentally inhaled spray paint - what to do?

In principle, when working with spray paint, you should always ensure that it is not inhaled as much as possible. However, there are differences between the dangers of different types of paint and the intensity of the amount of paint inhaled. The following information is intended as a quick guide to what to do after inhaling spray paint and how effective prevention can look like.

How much paint or solvent was inhaled?

First of all, after inhaling spray paint, you should think about how deeply you really inhaled the paint. After all, it makes a huge difference whether you have inhaled the smell of the solvent or actually the finely atomized paint yourself while walking past a construction site.

If it is actually a matter of deeply inhaling a cloud of paint mist, it is advisable to clarify with a doctor or, in the case of severe complaints, to call an emergency for acute medical treatment. As a precaution, professional help should be sought if you experience severe breathlessness and a feeling of drowsiness similar to drunkenness. Serious accidents with synthetic resin paints that are harmful to health may, in extreme cases, require emergency measures such as supplemental oxygen or bronchial lavage (trachea lavage) to alleviate the inhalation trauma.

Don't panic too quickly in mild cases

On the other hand, the situation is completely different if, due to the pungent smell of a solvent or propellant, you only have the feeling that spray paint has "got up your nose". In principle, this can also have adverse effects on health. Such a thing should only be really worrying if the following symptoms occur:

  • strong headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling light-headed or even passed out

If, for example, you only got the intensely sweet base of the ethyl acetate, which is often contained as a solvent, when spraying with a spray paint can, you should not panic too quickly. However, this is of course not completely harmless to health. Suitable protective measures are therefore essential for all work with spray paint.

Protective clothing and suitable measures to avoid danger

First of all, when buying, you can make sure to reduce the health risks a little by choosing certain paints. Varnishes and paints produced on a water basis are not completely harmless, but at least much less toxic and more environmentally friendly than synthetic resin varnishes. As a rule, more detailed information is also provided by the hazardous substance information provided with pictograms in accordance with the international GHS system.

Suitable protective clothing is also essential to protect your skin. In addition to overalls or clothing with long sleeves and pant legs, you should, above all, wear protective goggles that shield your eyes and effective respiratory protection.

In addition, you should observe the following precautionary measures:

  • correctly set the spray gun used
  • Only paint fences and other outdoor projects when there is no wind
  • If possible, do not spray over your face (paint particles and solvents are heavier than air)
  • Spray indoors only with the best possible ventilation (but without strong drafts)
  • Wear respiratory protection when opening the container

Not all protective masks are created equal

When spraying spray paint, some airbrush artists use tied cloth towels. However, like cheap dust masks from the hardware store, these offer only very inadequate protection against inhalation of the spray paint.

In particular, when working with spray paint more frequently, the purchase of a protective mask with a particle filter or even a combination of gas and particle filter should be considered. The latter can also offer some protection against the harmful effects of various solvents. Finally, various studies have found that regular inhalation of solvents can impair the intellectual and memory capacity of the brain for decades to come.