I came across an article the other day about paint and pregnancy. Yes, that paint — the kind that you put on a canvas or slap on your walls. Did you know that paint is made of pigment particles in a liquid base called a medium? Oil paints are thinned or cleaned with paint thinners. Latex paints are thinned or cleaned with water. Most paint that’s used in the home is latex.
Can environmental forces affected pregnancy? The short answer is “yes,” according to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), whose mission is to study malformations of the unborn.
Regarding paint and pregnancy, the amount of exposure is important. A one-time household exposure causes fewer problems than ongoing exposure through a work setting. And there have been medical studies documenting babies being born with problems if their mothers abused toluene-containing paint in order to “get high.” Toluene is a paint thinner that can cause low birth weight, premature labor, small head size, and developmental delays. Again, these problems only occur if pregnant women have been exposed to very high levels of toluene — much higher levels than exposure based on a hobby or a professional painter.
According to OTIS, working as a painter doesn’t pose concrete risks to the pregnancy. However, any reduction in chemical exposure is always a good thing.
Pregnant women may perform house painting because it usually results in a low level of exposure, however some precautions are advised, including:
- Don’t eat or drink while painting.
- Consider having someone else paint for you.
- Wear protective clothing such as gloves and long sleeves to cover your skin.
- Work in a well-ventilated area with open windows.
- Wear a respirator mask that filters vapors from paints and thinners.
If you live in a house that contains lead paint and want it removed, have someone who is certified in lead removal do the job, and keep away from the area until the job is complete.
The risks to pregnant women regarding paint exposure depend upon frequency of exposure. The greater the exposure, the greater the risk. Pregnant moms with questions or concerns may contact OTIS for further information at 1-866-626-6847.
Remember that a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.
*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*