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Home Painting Refresh and Effects on Air Quality

Air Quality

The word is out about paint fumes. Even though you have to paint the walls now and then, whenever possible, you need to avoid smelling the fumes. Given that most people have to live in their homes as the painting takes place, and afterward while the paint dries, what are you to do to limit exposure?

Here is some information on paint's effects on air quality, as well as some tips for limiting inhaling fumes:


Paints contain substances that keep them in liquid form until they are applied. In the case of oil- or solvent-based paints, that substance gives off particles called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. VOCs are off-gassed into the air as the paint dries. Among the harmful effects of paint fumes are these:

  • nausea
  • light headedness
  • dizziness
  • loss of memory
  • fatigue
  • allergic skin reaction

Long-term exposure to paint fumes can damage organs, cause cancer and result in asthma.

One of the best ways to avoid VOCs is to buy latex- or water-based paints.


Whether you are painting the walls yourself, or having it done while you are occupying the home, limit your exposure to the fumes. Pregnant women and young children should not be exposed to paint fumes.

Follow these tips:

  1. Give yourself an occasional break from painting or being in the house until the paint has dried.
  2. Open windows and turn on ceiling fans to increase circulation and ventilation.
  3. A charcoal-activated gas phase air purifier will absorb fumes and odors. Consult with your HVAC contractor about these air purifiers if you are particularly sensitive to paint fumes and other VOC-laden substances.
  4. You can dry the paint faster by 1. closing doors and windows; 2. turning the HVAC thermostat up on high; 3. vacating the house while the paint "bakes off." Return in 24 hours to see if the paint has dried. If you can still smell it, repeat the process.

Want to learn more about paint's effects on air quality? Contact Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical. We've served Silicon Valley since 1962.

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