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Is Spray Paint Bad For You?



Short answer

Spray paint has good qualities that have to do with usefulness. When it comes to health, however, spray paint offers no benefits and can be deadly when inhaled excessively.



Long answer

Spray paint is paint that is pushed out of an aerosol can by gases. Spray paint has been around since the 1950s and can be thought of as belonging to one of two categories: industrial spray paint and commercial spray paint. The same benefits and detriments are shared by both. First are the raw materials that make up spray paint – the pigments. There are four pigments present in spray paint: white pigments, colored pigments, inert pigments, and functional pigments. Spray paint also contains solvents and propellants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that push the paint out of the can. Furthermore, spray paints contain acetone, xylene, and toluene, which are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Spray paint is effective in that it can help a person finish a project faster, provide a more even coating, and comes in a wider variety when compared to other painting options. However, the effects on the body are terrible. Simply getting spray paint on your skin can cause irritation and burns, and if done over a long time can lead to asthma and lung cancer (in the rarest case). Inhalation can cause headaches, dizziness, and irritation of the respiratory tract, et al. Long-term effects of inhalation include CNS (central nervous system) dysfunction and serious damage of the respiratory system.

A few precautions you can take while using spray paint spraying in well-ventilated areas, preferably outdoors, and wearing a dust mask or a paint respirator.

So is spray paint bad for you? The answer depends on how the question is being asked. In the sense that it lets painters get work done more quickly and efficiently, then it is great. If we are considering solely the consequences to one’s health, then it is one of the worst things invented that is sold in stores and one wonders how it passes government regulation standards.

Possible short-term side effects

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • skin irritation
  • burning
  • difficulty breathing
  • tightness in chest
  • fatigue
  • vomiting and diarrhea

Possible long-term side effects

  • cns dysfunction
  • lung cancer
  • asthma
  • allergic contact dermititis
  • painter's syndrome
  • damage to reproductive system
  • kidney damage
  • liver damage

Ingredients to be aware of

  • acetone
  • xylene
  • toluene
  • hydrofluorocarbons
  • solvents


  • quick and easy to use
  • comes in a wide variety

Healthier alternatives

  • nontoxic water-based spray paint
  • liquid paint

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 12-29-2015
Last updated: 11-28-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 12-29-2015
Last updated: 11-28-2023

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