What do your paint and dead people have in common?



Anyone who has ever painted a room with conventional paint knows that the smell of paint is terrible. Typically, you have to wear a mask, can’t stay in the room for a few days, and may even feel dizzy or get a headache. This is because conventional paints are filled with harmful chemicals known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which emit toxic chemicals into your home (even after the paint dries) and can be detrimental to your health. One of the worst chemicals in conventional paints is also one that is used by morticians to preserve the dead: formaldehyde.

Although safe to use on the recently deceased, formaldehyde can effect the health of adults and children in a variety of negative ways. Multiple studies have found links between the use of paint and childhood cancers. A University of California study found a significant association between rooms painted and an increase in leukemia by 65 percent. Furthermore, mothers who used paint during pregnancy were three-times as likely to have a child with acute lymphobalstic leukemia. There have been several other studies that have uncovered links and associations between formaldehyde and cancers among adults. Studies of paint workers have revealed that they are at a higher risk for cancer of the bladder, lungs, pancreas, liver, and stomach because of their exposure to formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals in paint.

The formaldehyde in paints has also been linked to skin irritations, eye irritations, bronchitis, and can cause problems in the central nervous system. The U.S. National Cancer Instituted found in a 2009 study that the longer funeral workers spent embalming bodies with formaldehyde the more likely they were to to develop certain types of cancer – particularly those who were involved in embalming for more than 20 years. Formaldehyde can also trigger asthma – a condition which has increased nearly 600% since 1980.

To keep yourself and your home from smelling like the dead and causing health problems that could put you six feet under, it’s important you look at the label of all the paints that you buy to see how much formaldehyde it contains. While formaldehyde is federally regulated, many paint companies still carry it at “safe” levels – even though medical evidence suggest the safest level of formaldehyde is none. Read the labels of the paints you purchase, buy paints that don’t contain any VOCs (typically called No VOCs or Zero VOCs), and make sure that the colorants put into the paint don’t contain any VOC. No VOC paints not only are absent of formaldehyde, but they don’t have any other Volatile Organic Compounds making them safe to use! Most who use them say there is very little smell and never feel dizzy or develop the headaches that they once did with conventional paints. Using non-toxic No VOC paints will help you stay away from formaldehyde in your home and in your body for a very long time.

Further Reading

CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Fact Sheet on Formaldehyde

U.S. EPA on Indoor Air Quality and Formaldehyde

Environmental Health Perspectives on the Links between Formaldehyde and Asthma

National Funeral Directors Association on Explain Recent Studies about the Risk of Formaldehyde


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