What kind of paint is safe for a pregnant woman or baby?
Any new can of interior household paint is probably fine if inhaled for only a few minutes, hours or even days, but a “low VOC” or “zero VOC” paint is definitely safer, doesn’t necessarily cost more and can work just as well as regular paint.
What happens if a pregnant woman inhales paint fumes?
There is limited, inconclusive research indicating that pregnant women exposed to paint fumes have an increased chance of having a child with birth defects, but health authorities say there is simply not enough reliable evidence to make a definitive declaration about how high the risk is.
What’s clear is that water-based paint, a.k.a. latex paint, is less toxic than oil-based, a.k.a. solvent-based, paint. Furthermore, latex paints specifically labeled “low VOC” or “zero VOC” have even lower concentrations of volatile organic compounds, a type of chemical emitted as an invisible gas, some of which have been shown to cause health problems.
Much older paints, particularly those made prior to 1990, are far more dangerous than any made today because they often contained lead and mercury. Those highly toxic chemicals can be released from scraping old paint or demolishing old walls, which is why demolition or renovation projects can actually expose more dangerous paint-related chemicals than painting.
Would natural paints be safer for pregnant women and children?
Because there is already little evidence of the harm of normal latex and oil-based paints, there’s even less evidence that “natural” paints provide any meaningful additional health benefit.
Why should I trust you?
In doing thorough research on this topic, we found these to be the most useful and factual sources. We recommend reading them if you’d like more in-depth information:
- “Non-occupational exposure to paint fumes during pregnancy and risk of congenital anomalies: a cohort study.”
- “Association between maternal exposure to housing renovation and offspring with congenital heart disease: a multi-hospital case–control study.”
- “Non-occupational exposure to paint fumes during pregnancy and fetal growth in a general population.”
- “Healthy Indoor Painting Practices” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Paint Fact Sheet by the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists.
- “Can paint fumes affect my unborn baby?” by the U.K. National Health Service.