Paint Odors and Fumes

Ask an Expert From: Products Finishing, ,

Posted on: 1/1/2004

Question: I am considering buying a business specializing in industrial painting for various customers, some of which require MIL-SPECS.

Question:

I am considering buying a business specializing in industrial painting for various customers, some of which require MIL-SPECS. The business has been in operation for 27 years by the founder, who is getting ready to retire and wants to sell.

In my first visit to the business, I noticed the strong odor of paints and thinners throughout the building. This strong smell got me worried about the health hazards and implications of breathing these fumes for any length of time, over many years. Can you address this aspect of the painting business and its impact on employee health and liability. Do you ever get used to this? Does the sense of smell get damaged over time? D. B.

Answer:

The scenario you described, going into a custom coater’s plant and smelling paint and paint solvents is one of the things that got the paint and painting businesses into trouble with air quality worker safety and health as well as factory insurance agencies. Is breathing the fumes a health hazard? It could be. Do you ever get used to the odors? I didn’t, even after nearly 50 years. Does it damage your sense of smell over time? Possibly.

It has been my experience that there are always odors in paint making and paint application plants. Sometimes they are completely isolated and the odors are confined to only certain areas of a plant, but they are still there. That’s almost like “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there, does it make a noise?” It is well known that the human nose is a wonderful thing. It can detect an extremely low concentration of certain chemicals.

The custom coating business is an excellent business. These work places are regulated by environmental, worker safety and health and insurance agencies as to the use of and allowable concentration of solvents. The plant you visited was probably in compliance with all the rules and regulations. At least, I hope so. You may want to check into this.



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