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Painting Safety and Children

By Ivy Morris ; Updated June 13, 2017
A woman paints a wall.

Whether it's the colors on his bedroom walls or the watercolor picture hanging on the fridge, painting allows a child to express himself creatively. Nevertheless, painting can also be dangerous to children when toxic products are purchased or when paints are used and stored improperly.

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The General Stuff

For a safer painting environment, supervise young children and teach all children how to properly use paints. Never paint directly from the container. Pour household interior paint into a painting tray, and pour art paint into a separate container, such as a clean yogurt cup or egg carton. Don't return unused paint to the original container, but properly dispose of it by rinsing it down the sink or throwing it away in a sealed container. Completely rinse and dry your brushes before putting them away. Keep food and drink away from your paints. Wash your hands after painting, making sure to remove any paint from underneath the nails.

The Low-down on Labels

Looking for the "non-toxic" label on art paints is not enough to ensure the product is safe for children. While products labeled "non-toxic" may not pose an immediate risk of poisoning, they may not be safe for long-term use. Look, instead, for the "AP" label on art paints, which signifies the paint is an "Approved Product" and certified non-toxic by the Art and Creative Materials Institute. Art paint labeled "CL" for "Caution Label" is not appropriate for young children.

Art Painting Procedure

Following proper art painting procedure helps reduce the chance that bacteria or mold will grow in your paint products. Write the date of purchase on your paint products, and use the oldest paint products first. Shake paint well before using. Remove only the paint you will use for that day. When face or finger painting, use only water-based paint, specifically approved for face or finger painting. Never paint over any open sores or cuts, rashes or acne. Use fresh water and a fresh sponge for each child when face painting.

Interior House Paint Labeling

Household paint cans have VOC labels, which show the amount of volatile organic compounds in the paint. VOCs are chemical gasses that may have short- and long-term adverse health effects, cites the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA lists eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system as possible side effects from VOCs. Paints labeled "low" VOC, "zero" or "no" VOC are the safest. By federal law, flat paints can only have 250 g per liter VOC and other paints can only have 38 g per liter VOC, although some states have more stringent standards, cites ConsumerReports.org.

Interior House Painting Procedure

Because interior house paints can emit harmful VOC fumes, schedule painting at a time when you can leave your windows open for at least two to three days after painting. For better ventilation, set up window-mounted box fans in the rooms you paint. Keep your children out of freshly painted rooms. If any children are especially sensitive to the paint, they should stay at a friend's house until that fresh-paint smell is eliminated.

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About the Author

Ivy Morris specializes in health, fitness, beauty, fashion and music. Her work has appeared in "Sacramento News and Review," "Prosper Magazine" and "Sacramento Parent Magazine," among other publications. Morris also writes for medical offices and legal practices. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in government-journalism from Sacramento State University.

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