- Is it safe to paint when pregnant?
- What might be the risks related to painting while pregnant?
- In which trimester is painting more harmful?
- Safety precautions to take while painting
- Frequently asked questions
In every pregnancy, there is a 3 to 5% chance of the baby being born with a congenital disability or mental retardation (1). This could be due to the hidden home hazards that you may not pay attention to until you are exposed to them.
Is It Safe To Paint When You Are Pregnant?
Various studies could not establish the side-effects of painting during pregnancy. They have not found an association between household painting and the development of the baby. Moreover, household paints result in minimal exposure, and the risk is negligible.
However, you should take precautions to stay away from all potential hazards, including paint (2).
[ Read: Harmful Chemicals During Pregnancy ]
Possible Risks Of Painting When Pregnant
Painting may expose you to various chemicals, the effect of which is not entirely known. Since we cannot measure the exposure to the substance, determining the risks becomes difficult.
Some possible risks of painting during pregnancy are:
- Exposure to the chemical solvents in paints can increase the chances of congenital disabilities in the baby. Research found that those who were often exposed to industrial solvents gave birth to babies with gastroschisis, which is a birth defect of the abdominal wall where the intestines extend outside (3).
- Old paintwork could contain traces of lead, which, when inhaled would potentially harm both the mother and the baby. Some of the adverse effects include increased risk of miscarriage and hypertension, impaired neurodevelopment, decreased IQ, and cognitive impairment (4).
- Solvent-based (oil-based) paints contain harmful substances such as toluene, xylene, spirit, and alkanes. Long-term exposure to these is associated with mental retardation and congenital disabilities in the newborn. They will also cause tiredness, weakness, nausea, headache, and memory loss (5).
- Exposure to home paints during pregnancy also increases the risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the child (6).
While it is best to stay away from these chemicals throughout the pregnancy, you need to especially keep away in specific times during the gestational period.
When Can Paints Be Most Harmful During Pregnancy?
The risk of miscarriage and congenital disabilities is high during the first trimester, i.e., until the 13th week of pregnancy, since fetal organs begin to develop from them. The concern rises with prolonged exposure to painting and paint fumes. Therefore, it is better to avoid painting until the 14th week of pregnancy. These risks are low during the second and third trimesters (7).
[ Read: Acrylic Nails During Pregnancy ]
Safety Precautions To Take While Painting During Pregnancy
If you decide to paint the baby’s room yourself, follow these precautions (9):
- Keep the room well-ventilated, and open the doors and windows to avoid inhalation of toxic fumes.
- Schedule painting and other activities involving paints during spring or fall, when you can leave the windows open for air circulation.
- Do not eat or drink in the work area to avoid accidental ingestion of chemicals.
- Use the paints labeled zero or low VOC (volatile organic compounds). They are mostly latex paints containing low volatility.
- Wear a ventilation mask (specially designed for painting) to filter away paint fumes and particles.
- Wear protective gear such as gloves, trousers, long-sleeve shirts to protect your skin from exposure to the chemicals.
- Leave the area if you begin to experience dizziness, watery eyes, headache or nausea.
- Do not stay long painting in the room.
- Do not sleep immediately in a newly painted area. Give some time for the fumes and smells to escape.
- Avoid latex-based solvents containing ethylene glycol, biocides or ethers.
If you are a painter by profession or your work involves using paints, you should consult an occupational medicine physician or industrial hygienist to find ways to work safely.
Keep reading for more on the common queries about painting during pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is Zero VOC paint? How is it useful in pregnancy?
Zero VOC paints are free of volatile organic compounds, which are harsh chemicals that emit dangerous vapors. You can also use latex (acrylic) paints that are easily washable. The fumes from such paints will not pose any risk since they have zero volatility (10).
2. Can I paint during pregnancy if I wear a mask?
Yes, wearing a mask filters the fumes and particles from paints. Go for respirator masks (1).
3. Can paint fumes affect my unborn baby?
Paint fumes are unlikely to harm your unborn baby as the risk from modern household paints is very low. There is a slightly higher risk associated with solvent-based paints and old paintwork as they contain traces of lead (8).
The risks of painting will be higher only if you come in contact with them on a regular basis. Or else, the risk is negligible and should not be a concern. If possible, postpone the work until delivery, or have someone else do the painting for you. If you still want to try and paint the baby’s room yourself, take precautions and avoid prolonged exposure to the paints.
Have you tried painting your home during pregnancy? If you have any tried and tested tips, share them in the comments section below.
2. Obstetrics And Gynaecology; Baylor College Of Medicine
3. The Ecology Of Birth Defects: Socio-Economic And Environmental Determinants Of Gastroschisis In North Carolina; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; 2009
4. Lisa M. Cleveland et al.; Lead Hazards for Pregnant Women and Children; Part 1; AJN; 2008
5. Toxic Substances Portal – Toluene; Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; 2015
6. H. D. Bailey et al.; Home paint exposures and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia: Findings from the Childhood Leukemia International Consortium; Cancer Causes Control; 2017
7. Can paint fumes affect my unborn baby; National Health Service; 2017
8. Healthy Indoor Painting Practices; EPA; 2000
9. VOCs: Paints, Cleaners and Other Solvents; Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection; 2018
10. DK; My Pregnancy; page 59
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