Safety Measures: How Long Are Paint Fumes Harmful?

how long are paint fumes harmful

Painting to beautify a particular establishment is a must in building maintenance. But do you know that the odor of paints can be harmful to certain people, like expectant mothers and those who have lung problems?

This is why you need to ask your paint contractor, “how long are paint fumes harmful?”.

In general, it is best to wait up to 3 days before one can use the painted room. By this time, the paints are completely dried up, and the odor has subsided. And importantly, it may no longer be a threat to health. But of course, you have to apply your best judgment. You would know it is completely safe when the odor is no longer as strong as it was when you applied the paint.

What causes paint fumes?

In chemistry, the fumes of paints are commonly called VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds. These are chemical pollutants from liquid or solid substances that transform into gases, making them inhalable in layman’s terms.

Paints contain certain chemicals that keep their liquid state. And these are the chemicals that are considered VOCs. Chemicals in paint vary on the type of paint used. But the most common chemicals present in paints are acetone, styrene, ethanol, benzene, xylene, and propylene glycol.

Once you apply the paint to your walls or any part of the building, these chemicals will start to mix in the air but eventually wear off as they start to dry out. This means, when the paint is no longer in liquid form, the toxic odor starts to dissipate.

Health Risks Paint Fumes – How Toxic Are Paint Fumes?

Paint is an essential component in homebuilding. An establishment without paint is dull, unattractive, and lacks life. And when you do exterior painting, you are bringing back the life of the structure.

But are paint fumes harmful? Knowing the chemical content of the paints and the possibility of inhaling them is a clear indication that paint odor is hazardous. So, before considering your DIY home painting, try to know the harmful chemicals contained in your paint and understand why the strong smell can have an impact on your health.

Effects of exposure and breathing/inhaling paint fumes

1. Immediate side effects (short term)

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Watery eyes
  • Lightheadedness
  • Irritation on the nose or throat

2. Profound effect due to continuous exposure

  • Lung irritation
  • Sinusitis
  • Respiratory disorder or difficulty in breathing
  • Asthma
  • Liver damage
  • Nervous system damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Certain types of cancer

Paint Fumes Health Risk for Certain People

The following group of people has different levels of responses to the effect of paint fumes. Check which group you belong to have a heads up of the risks of paint fumes on your health.

  1. Effects on adults.
    • Among the different classes of individuals, adults are the ones who have a strong immune system. But they are also the ones who are usually careless in handling chemical-based products. Some adults may not be aware that they have lung problems until they are exposed to VOCs. There may be difficulty in breathing that could lead to serious respiratory issues. Kidney and liver problems can also be some of the effects of paint fumes on adults.
  2. Effects on pregnancy.
    • Expectant mothers are vulnerable when it comes to chemical exposure. That is also why it is not advisable for them to go to the salon, especially in their first trimester, due to the strong scent of chemicals in beauty products. It is the same or even worse with paint fumes that emit a strong odor in the air. The chemicals may affect the unborn child’s proper physical development that could cause congenital defects. Extended exposure of the pregnant mother may lead to miscarriage.
  3. Effects on toddlers/kids.
    • Are paint fumes harmful to children? As parents, you may have shielded your kids with nutrients and have them take multivitamins to make sure they are protected from harm and sickness. Unknowingly, paint fumes can be a threat to their little body. When small children are exposed to paint fumes, they may develop allergic reactions like asthma, eczema, and rhinitis. It is safe to keep them away when you are painting.
  4. Effects on babies.
    • Babies have tiny lungs, and their body organs are not yet fully developed, especially newborns. Thus, leaving them a little chance to protect their bodies from paint fumes. So, exposure to chemical odors in paint fumes may increase the risk of childhood leukemia and respiratory problems.
  5. Effects on animals/pets.
    • Indoor animals that are not usually exposed to strong odors may be in danger of lung inflammation. Small animals may also develop pneumonia or irritate their respiratory system.

Safety Tips Against Paint Fumes

Licensed Painters in Bay Area

It is indisputable that paint fumes are harmful to humans and pets. But these paints are helpful, especially for interior painting in enhancing the beauty of walls, protecting wood and roofs, and adding color to fences. It would be best if you take safety precautions to eliminate this odor in the shortest possible time.

So, how long are paint fumes harmful? Paint fumes would take a few days before the strong smell wears off. But there are a few ways to make them go away fast.

Here are a few tips for getting rid of paint fumes quickly.

  1. Keep the place well ventilated.
    • If you are painting a room, make sure to open the window and doors. You may also use ventilators to push the stench of paint fast.
  2. Select indoor paints.
    • Use indoor paints that contain lesser VOCs because they are less harmful. These types of paints are commonly used in residential painting. They also dry faster, giving you less trouble waiting for the smell to clear away.
  3. Read the label carefully.
    • If you are buying and painting your walls, you have to pay attention to the warning and instructions indicated on the label. Most of them include tips and protective measures when using the product.
  4. Wear a mask while painting.
    • The mask will prevent you from inhaling strong paint fumes. Try to take frequent breaks and get fresh air too. This will help your lungs do away with the harmful effects of fresh paint.
  5. Set aside and cover leftover paints.
    • Make sure to cover the paint cans after using to avoid the odor from leaking. Keep it in a safe place that is less accessible to children.

Let El Gato Painting Take Care of Your Painting Needs

El Gato Painters

If you are wondering how long paint fumes are harmful, the professional experiences of El Gato Painting will help you understand this matter. As they usually advise, you may allow at least 2 to 3 days before you can consider the paint fume less harmful.

El Gato Painting offers painting services that are done professionally. Aside from that, they exercise extra precaution to make sure the paints they use are safe. They also educate and orient building owners and homeowners on handling paint fumes.

If you are worried about the risk of exposing yourself to paint’s pungent odor, you can leave the job to El Gato. They provide you extraordinary service and excellent quality output. And if you are still uncertain what you need and how often you should paint your house interior, talk to the El Gato Painting team, and they’ll make it easy for you.

You can always expect the best result with El Gato Painting Services.


  1. Luke Smith said:
    February 15, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    It was very alarming to know that paint fumes can also affect your kidney and liver. I’m having my apartment repainted soon, and I want to make sure that the products they use are safe. That being said, I’ll make sure to ask them if they are certified with the landlord lead paint safety.

  2. Paint Fumes said:
    May 13, 2022 at 9:17 am

    Amazing information. Learned alot!
    Keep sharing.
    Can you please tell us how to control VOC’s?

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