It is very wise to keep your health and safety in mind when starting any painting project. The latex or water born products are much preferred, as generally they don’t tend to give of the harsh fumes that the oil products do. However that is not to say that there is no need for concern. Being stuck in a room all day painting without ventilation is not a good idea. Being able to open windows & leave the room for occasional breaks is helpful. Consider the degree of exposure & the time of exposure. If you paint 1 door casing in a large room in a big house, with widows open, the intensity of the fumes in the air should be minor. But if you paint all walls & the ceilings in a room having windows & doors closed this is probably not a healthy situation.
Unless you live in a warm climate and your painting during the winter months you’ll find it more difficult to ventilate, so consider other people at home like the kids that you may not want to expose to the vapors. Also will you or any one else be spending the night? If so can you leave the house for a couple of hours after you have finished painting? This will give the vapors some time to diminish. No one should spend the night in a bedroom of the same day the room was painted. You probably should not spend the evening in your living room of the day that it was painted either, especially if the windows have not opened during the day. Animals can be very sensitive to paint so keep all pets out of the work area.
Certain Latex Products: Some semi gloss latex paints & latex primer sealers contain an ammonia like substance that you will undoubtedly recognize the odor within a few minutes of painting. Fumes from these ammonia-containing paints may more irritable than from the non-ammonia containing paints latex paints, yet not usually as hazardous as the oil based. Depending on your particular exposure situation, using these ammonia-containing products may or may not be a concern.
Mildew-Inhibitors For mildew prone areas latex bathroom paint may be the best choice.
Mildew inhibitive additives are available, but can be a hazard to use. Exterior paints are not usually recommended for interior use. The bathroom type paint contains a more appropriate mildew inhibitors for interior use and dose not require that you handle small containers of very toxic chemical additives.
To be on the safe side do not use any mildew inhibitive paints inside where it is not necessary. Stick with the latex bathroom paint. Use a bit more caution while working with mildew inhibitive paint, most mildew-chides are considered toxic.
It is not recommended to use exterior paint products on the inside of your home, as they may contain mildewcides that are not designated for interior use.
Good: today most major paint manufacturers are considering health issues as a top priority. Some paints are even designed for the purpose of virtually non-hazardous to use in most cases. These are the low VOC, usually latex or water borne paints.
Respirators are available at most hardware & paint stores, if you do decide to use a respirator make sure it is designed for painters. Also check to see that it is rated for the type of paint you will use. Disposable respirators are a cheaper alternative to industrial rated cartridge type respirators. Disposable dust mask although great for many jobs will not provide much if any filtration from paint fumes.
Rubber gloves and goggles are often recommended also
Latex Allergies: In recent years we have been hearing about the increasing latex allergy concern. There are numerous products about that may contain some of the latex allergens, however according to the American Academy Of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAI); latex paints are not usually a problem, because they do not contain natural latex. For more information on latex allergies check-out the AAAI website http://www.aaaai.org/
Sanding primed surfaces, previously painted surfaces, Spackle and other fillers produces dust. Fine partials enter the air, into your lungs and can easily permeate into nearby rooms. Doing a light sanding between finish coats just to knock of any occasional pieces of grit, probably will not cause a dust problem Sanding on latex dose not usually create as much of a dust problem as the oil base paints. But when thoroughly sanding oil base primer or filler especially joint compound, always take some measures to keep the amount of dust exposure to a minimum. Keep some disposable dust mask on hand, they’re inexpensive and available at most any place that sells paint. Where a hat with a visor . You may also want to use goggles if you have much sanding to do. Close doors to adjoining rooms & hallways, to prevent permeation. If you are working in an area that has an entry to another room but there are no doors to close, you may be able to hang a sheet of plastic over the entry.
A shop vacuum with a fine particle filter is a great asset; use it to vacuum off sanded surfaces & then the floor. You may be able to use your household vacuum cleaner, but if you have accumulated a lot of dust, a household vac may not be built for this kind of use. Changing the bag or filter of a household vacuum immediately after heavy-duty use is recommended. Cautions: do not vacuum where there may be an accumulation of lead dust, unless you have a special vacuum designed for such use. (Please see lead section)
Always protect appliances, TVs, computers, ect from dust. If you can’t get them out of the work area, cover them with a disposable plastic cover. Make sure the appliances are not running or will not start, as you could block necessary airflow. When finished; carefully remove the plastic drop cloths so as to contain the dust, fold from the bottom up over and then dispose the plastic drop cloth.
Wet Sanding can be another option to minimize spreading dust. Until recently wet sanding has not been particularly popular with most house painters, it is becoming a more common method of sanding due to lead paint concerns. Wet sanding paper is designed so that it can be kept wet by frequently dipping in water, a spray bottle may also be used to wet surfaces .A pasty film may accumulate on work surfaces while wet sanding, this film can be washed off with a sponge before painting.
In recent years one of the major health safety issues has been concern over exposure to lead based and lead containing paint. Paints containing lead were outlawed to sell to the general public in 1978.The older your home prior to 1979, the more likely you are to have lead in your paint. Just because a house was built before 1978 does not necessarily mean it was painted with lead containing products, many products were available before 1978 that did not contain lead. Latex paint seldom contained lead .Of course where exactly the lead paint is would determine weather or not there is much risk of lead exposure. Doors and windows should usually be the first place to test for lead. Children and pets will sometimes chew or windowsills, shelves, handrails or other protruding objects. Friction on window sash wears paint thus producing fine dust, the same problem occurs when doors rub against the jambs. Also these objects are frequently handled daily. Consider areas that surface-wear like stair treads and floors. Areas prone to pealing (windows & sills on interior) are also a high concern. It is quite likely that most of your home has been repainted since 1978 . If so walls and ceiling that are in sound condition, probably do not pose much of a threat.
Exterior: The out sides of older homes have probably been painted with lead at one time. Most of these older homes have probably been repainted with a non-leaded paint by now. However unless the original lead paint has been removed which is unlikely, there are some lead issues to consider. Paint pealing is a continuous process. When you see loose paint pealing from an old building, it is often because the old primer is loosening off .It has been there for decades and this is where you will be likely to find leaded paint. If you scrape or sand pealed areas on one of these older building the scrapings and the dust may contain lead. Also just a light wind can carry the leaded debris for hundreds of feet from the building being worked on.
The best procedure to use depends on the condition of the building. Getting expert advice is recommended.
Test kits: Lead test kits are available at paint and hardware stores, these kits are generally easy to use and are good just let you if you are presently being exposed to lead, but professional testing is recommended.
Dealing with lead paint issues should not be taken lightly. State and local laws are now in place specifying just how lead containing dwellings are to be treated. Some states require licensed lead abatement teams to remove paint from defined areas. These individuals are required to use a high degree of precaution, special protective suits and equipment. If you have any reason to believe that you have a lead paint issue, call your local health board for advise before you start any home projects. There may be funding programs in your area to help with the cost of dealing with lead paint. Some communities offer training. You may be advised it is ok to paint over certain areas without having any paint removed.
Since state laws vary I cannot give specific details on lead paint treatment or removal (please call your local health department) but a few cautions are appropriate
Lead Paint Cautions
The E PA Environmental Protection Agency has extended information on lead paint issues and provide several excellent manuals available online in PDF or by mail. Check out there OPPT Lead Page at http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/lead/