August 28, 2023

Indoor Air Quality Risks for Industrial Paint Workers

Share This Post

Indoor Air Quality Risks for Industrial Paint Workers

From the lacquer on your ceramic coffee mug and the appliance enamel on your fridge, to the paint job on your car and the finish on your laptop, objects coated with production paint are everywhere. It would be nearly impossible to name all the items that serve as substrata for industrial coatings. Fabric and metal, paper and plastic, wood, glass, and rubber; the list goes on.

It takes countless workers to manufacture millions of enameled products. And if proper indoor air quality (IAQ) measures are not employed, these employees can get sick.

Common Methods

To understand the potential IAQ problem is to recognize how industrial painting (sometimes called production painting) differs from other methods.

Industrial paint products come in different forms like liquid, powder, or paste. Once applied, the paint goes through a curing process to create a protective, sometimes decorative, coating like a plastic or bonded film. There are various methods to achieve this end result. Common techniques include:

Liquid coating – Like other types of paint, industrial liquid coating is applied wet, then dried to form a solid layer.

Powder coating – Applied as a dry powder, it is electrostatically charged and adheres evenly throughout the surface.

Plating – Employed for numerous reasons such as anti-corrosion, weather protection, or decoration. The object must be a conductive surface as the covering is metallic.

E-Coating – Also known as electro-coating, uses electrical current to adhere paint to product. The quantity of paint particles that adhere is dependent on the amount of electricity used.

Workers use a brush, pen, spray gun, or rolling machine to apply the varnish, paint, or other coating. They constantly check their equipment to ensure that the paint layers go on evenly and will correct an application when necessary. They can also immerse objects into fluid and then place the coated pieces into kilns or driers to produce a hardened finish. They do these tasks indoors, day after day.

Hazardous Ingredients in Paint

Production paints (also called industrial coatings) contain a broad range of ingredients. A typical coating contains resin, pigment, solvent, and additives. Within this combination, are various VOCs (volatile organic compounds), some of which produce potentially toxic emissions.

The IAQ problem is obvious. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Painting, coating, and decorating workers have one of the highest rates of […] illnesses of all occupations. Hazards include exposure to toxic materials.

While most jobs are performed in specially ventilated areas and workers wear masks or respirators to protect themselves from inhaling microscopic particles and harmful chemicals, that is often not enough protection.

VOC concentrations are nearly always higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than out-of-doors. These biological compounds can turn solids and liquids into vapors even at an ordinary room temperature. This conversion releases a large number of particles into a worker’s breathing space.  

In an uncontrolled facility, toxic emissions can create health problems from mild to severe. The types of complications resulting from over-exposure will vary, depending on the exposure period of time, as well as the level of contact.

Controlling Exposure

Industrial paint fume exposure can cause short-term side effects such as irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat, headache, dizziness or light-headedness, nausea, and labored breathing.  A lengthy exposure to high concentrations of VOCs can cause long-term damage to the nervous system, liver, or kidneys.

The solution? Employers need to manage, mitigate, and control emissions of toxic paint fumes by providing adequate workspace ventilation.  In addition, workers should wear personal protective equipment such as goggles and facemasks. The final, and arguably most important, action is fume extraction. Fumes must be eliminated before they can be inhaled.  

There are air cleaning products that can help. Our top Extract-All® products for source capture and air filtration include, models SP-800, SP-4000BWC, and SP987-2. Call us today for a free consultation with one of our clean air specialists to find out if our fume extraction air cleaning products are right for you.

Other Related Blog Posts

February 7, 2022

Occupational PAH Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the Workplace

February 14, 2022

The Unseen Occupational Hazard At Shopping Malls

February 21, 2022

For a Healthy Indoor Air Quality Source Capture Ventilation is Key

laser cutting into material
March 7, 2022

Indoor Air Quality Concerns for Laser Marking Fumes

person facing airport window with planes taking off
March 14, 2022

Indoor Air Quality Considerations & Airport Smoking Lounges

benzene carcinogen image
March 21, 2022

The Occupational Risk: Toxic Benzene Chemical Exposure

upward shot of 4 doctors in a room
March 28, 2022

Understanding How Positive / Negative Pressure Machines Are Used in Healthcare

April 11, 2022

Mold Causes Significant Indoor Air Quality Problems in Libraries

dentist cleaning a patient's teeth
April 18, 2022

Dental Aerosol Contamination Management and Indoor Air Quality Measures

April 25, 2022

Best Practices for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Includes Indoor Air Quality Controls