Health hazards for painters

Painters and decorators who spend their time sanding, spraying, cleaning and filing are exposing themselves to a number of known cancer causing properties, known as carcinogens.

This daily contact can cause lung and bladder cancer, causing the death of 334 painters a year, according to the cancer burden study.

Hazardous substances which can be found in any one decorating job include:

  • Solvents – Also known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds), solvents are used in paints, thinners and glues, although there are many water based solutions and reduced solvent paints now available. Xylene, white spirit, acetone and ethyl acetate are potentially harmful, and spraying paint rather than using brushes or rollers can maximise exposure
  • Lead – While lead particles are now removed from modern decoration materials, painters may have to strip back doors or windows of old paint containing lead. Lead can cause serious health problems including anaemia and kidney disease
  • Construction dust – Regular inhalation caused by construction dust can cause lung cancer, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and silicosis
  • Asbestos – Asbestos was used extensively in houses from the 1950s to the 1980s, and can cause fatal lung cancer or scarring of the lungs if particles are inhaled. Symptoms can take anywhere between 15 to 60 years to develop, and the risk is far greater if you smoke
  • Pigments, resins and catalysts – Non-natural colour pigments can contain toxic heavy metal salts, making them a carcinogen

How to taking care while at work

  • Look at using water based paints
  • Keep lids on solvent mixtures to prevent evaporation
  • Keep any rooms you’re working in well ventilated
  • Ensure you’re fully equipped with respiratory protective equipment, eye makes, overalls, and gloves
  • Always consult experts if you find asbestos
  • Do not remove any lead based paint if it’s in good condition; it’s safer to paint over it
  • Make sure there are washing facilities to hand so you can remove any harmful substances which have come into contact with the skin quickly

Finally, think about what you would do if an illness prevented you from working. Personal accident, mortgage protection and life insurance can all offer support at times when you might be struggling financially when you’re unable to work.

Contact the Chartered brokers at Hine Insurance on 0161 438 0000 to find out more.

Andy Guy
Andy Guy

Hi there! I'm Andy, I'm the Head of Charity and Faith Insurance at Hine Insurance with over 30 years experience.

In my spare time, I'm a trustee of a church and I enjoy walking and getting to grips with the garden.

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