Indoor Air Quality and Auto Paint Fumes

Motorists looking to give their car a new paint job will want to take their vehicle to a professional service. In these buildings, strong air filtration systems are needed to protect workers against the dangers of auto paint fumes.

Motorists looking to give their car a new paint job will want to take their vehicle to a professional service. In these buildings, strong air filtration systems are needed to protect workers against the dangers of auto paint fumes.

The need for such systems is important because employees who are spending their entire day painting cars expose themselves to dangers they may not be aware of. Employees should always wear certain protective equipment, such as personal respirators. But the buildings, where the majority of the work is completed, will also have to be outfitted with filters and other air filtration systems to further protect workers and other occupants.

Why spray paint?

Drivers purchasing a new car appreciate how clean it is, from the inside to the outside. But over time, the car’s outside will wear down after being used in the summer and winter months. Even the local environment can have an impact on how a car looks.

In fact, Allstate Insurance stated how living near the ocean can damage the finish on a car. What used to be bright colors can eventually turn dull and make the car look worn out. But it’s not just the ocean and sun that damage a car over time. Salt, largely prevalent in cities that experience cold winters to help melt snow and ice, will also damage the car’s finish.

Furthermore, summer is the ideal time for car painting services to check their HVAC and air filters to ensure everything is properly working. Depending on the time of the year, drivers are more willing to seek professional help to paint their car instead of doing it on their own. Either way, Paint For Cars recommended that after a car is painted, it should be stored in a garage for a few days at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures during the spring and summer are more favorable for drivers to letting a car dry.

The dangers of spray paint

Spray paint, while it helps cars look almost brand new, can be extremely harmful if the proper protections aren’t in place when it’s applied. Many modern, professional spray paint cans contain what is known as volatile organic compounds. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are made up of a handful of chemicals that have short- and long-term effects on the health of individuals exposed to the fumes.

In an enclosed space, such as a paint shop, VOC concentrations are considerably higher, sometimes as much as 10 times more than outdoors. This makes body shops even more susceptible to dangerous health effects because many vehicles have to be painted and worked on inside. Furthermore, professional shops use more powerful spray equipment and paint that can also have an impact on health.

Health effects

VOCs are even more dangerous because while some have a noticeable odor that can alert individuals, other VOCs are odorless, which can increase exposure limits. Thousands of these substances currently exist, and some are the following:

  • Acetone
  • Xylene
  • Benzene
  • Toluene

Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Health stated that the health effects depend on how long a worker is inhaling the fumes and how much is in the air. Individuals with asthma or other respiratory health issues are more susceptible to the effects of inhaling VOCs. It also must be noted that each VOC has its own toxicity level and will have differing health effects. 

“Health effects depend on how long a worker is inhaling the fumes.”

However, some common short-term health effects that may result from VOC exposure include:

  • Irritation of the nose, ears and throat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

In the long-term, the Minnesota Department of Health said health effects may include cancer and damage to the kidneys, liver and/or central nervous system. Additionally, individuals with existing respiratory health issues are more likely to become irritated and sick if they are exposed to high amounts of VOCs for an extended period.

How to reduce amount of VOCs

The best way for a body shop to reduce the amount of VOCs inside is to install a robust air ventilation system. Equipment ranging from HVAC units to HEPA filters will help reduce the amount of harmful air particles in the air and add further protection for workers.

Body shops specializing in painting cars and other vehicles should inquire with Air Impurities Removal Systems to discuss what air systems are needed.