That old paint can in the garage, basement or shed near the home is a potential hazard in the event of a flood in that area of the property. Paints are used in nearly every household. These paints come in different varieties, and each type poses different hazards if they become mixed with floodwaters and stormwaters that could enter the home as a flooded basement.
Let’s look at each type of paint and the hazards that they pose to human health.
Water-based latex paint is the least harmful paint, but any paint stored and manufactured before 1992 could contain mercury, which is a hazard to human health. Generally, water-based paint pose less of a hazard than other paint types, but these cans of paint should be disposed of properly once the painting job is completed.
Oil-based paints contain solvents which are dangerous to inhale. The oil-based paints include chemicals such as: enamels, lacquers, shellac and varnish. The hobbyist or artist paints could be in this category as well, as both contain high levels of dangerous solvents and hazardous propellants. If the paints are dry latex paints, it is possible to discard them in a plastic bag on trash day, with the paint can lids removed to show that they are empty. Otherwise, call the local authorities or refuse center to see if the empty lids and cans can be recycled.
If there is still some paint in the can, add kitty litter to the can to finish the process to dry out the paint that is left over in the can.
Typically, paints are made up and composed of four main ingredients: resin, solvent, pigment and additives. The resin of a paint is the main ingredient and shows up as the film or coating on the surface of the can when being painted or when you open the can the first time (this is what you stir up). These resins are usually non-hazardous and are mad up of linseed, acrylic or other types of non-toxic synthetic resin chemicals.
Solvents are chemicals used to help prevent the paint from drying out. Generally, the solvents used in oil-based paints are made from petroleum distillate components which are often mixed with hazardous chemicals such as mineral spirits, toluene and xylene. But not latex paints, there the solvent used is just water.
It is true that the pigments in paints provide the cool and vibrant colors and help it to be durable when in use on your painting project. There are often used paint pigments that are overall non-toxic, such as:
· Titanium oxide
· Iron oxide
· Calcium sulfate
But highly vibrant paints may utilize pigments that do contain heavy metals which are a known carcinogen, such as these listed as:
Paint additives are stabilizers that are necessary to use in paint to stop it from breaking down in the can. These additives also help stop mold growth, help the paint go on smoothly and allow for a nice finish at the end of the paint project. Paint additives can include a wide variety of non-hazardous and also toxic agents.
Although rare to see them around, paint cans made before 1977 could include lead and if made before 1990 may also have mercury in them. You will need to discard these old paints properly by recycling at the city or town dump center per their instructions. And finally, never pour paint down a sink to get rid of it, it could pollute the environment and your private well or underground water resources as well as a result. Keep these paints and all other potentially hazardous materials away from the hands of children or from pets too.
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