Is it Safe to Sleep in a freshly Painted Room when Pregnant?

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Pregnant women are usually cautious about what they eat, what they do, and stay away from some things and not others. Keep reading if you have a freshly painted room and wonder whether it is safe to sleep in a freshly painted room when pregnant.

Pregnancy is a time of both physical and emotional changes. In addition to those changes, a changing body will have to be accommodated for.

For instance, sleep patterns will have to be adjusted to accommodate for the growing bump. Also, some activities will have to be avoided during pregnancy. Sleeping in a freshly painted room is one of them because inhaling the paint fumes can be dangerous during pregnancy.  

The paint fumes contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) that are known to cause respiratory illness and damage the organ system of your developing fetus.

This article will explain why it is harmful to sleep in a freshly painted room when pregnant and how you can protect yourself from paint fumes.

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Is it Safe to Sleep in a Freshly Painted Room?

No, the biggest concern with sleeping in a freshly painted room when pregnant is exposure to paint fumes. Depending on the type of paint used, VOCs can off-gas from dried paint at room temperature, and inhaling VOCs while sleeping can be dangerous for the following reasons.

Affect Multiple Organ 

Paint fumes are a mixture of solvent vapors and volatile organic compounds and are considered a potential occupational health risk in the painting industry.

Exposure to paint fumes have been linked to headaches, dizziness, sleep disturbances, and respiratory symptoms.

Cause Allergic Reaction

Vapor from paint not only gives a typical chemical smell in the air but can also be responsible for allergic reactions in certain people. It can cause a runny nose, sore throat, nasal congestion, and coughing. Exposure to paint fume can also cause itchy or watery eyes. 

Oil-based paints are known allergens because they carry many VOCs. Also, the chemicals in water-based household paints are linked to asthma, congestion, and eczema in children (1). 

Skin Irritation

People sensitive to paint fume inhalation may develop skin irritation by direct physical contact with the paint. It can lead to skin rash, discolored skin, and itchiness. 

Can Cause Cancer

The study published in 2015 showed that exposure to home paint before conception, during pregnancy, and after birth increases the risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (2).

However, research studies looking at paint exposure during pregnancy have not shown consistent results as they have not measured the amount of paint exposure in a pregnant woman. 

But the point here is, exposure to paint fume during pregnancy can be harmful and should be avoided. 

Possibility of Miscarriage and Birth Defect

Some research studies have shown that exposure to solvents in the paint during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, and prolonged exposure may cause birth defects or cause learning disabilities in offspring (3,4). 

But again, these studies have yet reached a definitive conclusion about the harmful effect of exposure to paint fumes during pregnancy. 

These studies have shown a minimum chance of an unborn baby being affected by painting or being around paint fumes while pregnant, as most modern household paints are low risk.

However, the risk of harmful effects to the fetus is higher from solvent-based paints or when you are working with paint that contains traces of lead.   

Are Paint Fumes Bad for Pregnancy?

Is it Safe to Sleep in a freshly Painted Room when Pregnant?
Photo by KJ Styles on Unsplash

At room temperature, VOCs in the paint can turn into gasses, which is why you should never sleep in a freshly painted room or a freshly cleaned room.

The problem with the paint fume is that it can off-gas from a dried painted surface for up to 2-3 weeks. However, if you have used paint with a high VOC amount, it can remain in indoor air for several days.

VOCs are associated with severe short-term or long-term health issues ranging from skin irritations, headaches, nausea, damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.

These chemicals are harmful and can be at their worst when they’re at their highest point of concentration, which is when they’re new. For this reason, it’s better to stay away from paint fumes when pregnant.

If you are exposed to a freshly painted room or slept in a freshly painted room, you shouldn’t worry too much as it is unlikely to cause any harm to your unborn child, mainly because most modern paints are not as toxic as they used to be. And if you are concerned about your exposure to paint fumes for a longer duration, it is best to talk to your doctor.

Before the introduction of the EPA’s Clean Air Act in 1970, it was common for people to use lead-based paints and asbestos in their homes. All of these products were widely marketed and sold, and most of them were not labeled as containing these harmful materials.

 In homes built before 1978, it’s possible that many of these materials are still in use or may have been disturbed during home improvements. Asbestos and lead-based paint are both considered to be hazardous materials and should never be disturbed or removed, especially when you are pregnant. 

The fetus is the most vulnerable to the effects of toxic substances. The first two trimesters of pregnancy are the periods when organogenesis occurs, which is the basis for the formation of the body of a newborn. And anything that you inhale or get exposed to during these periods might be harmful to your baby.

So, it is best to avoid exposure to freshly painted rooms during the first and second trimester of pregnancy as a precaution.  

How long should you wait before Sleeping in a freshly Painted Room when Pregnant?

While scientific studies have not been conclusive about the harmful effect of exposure to paint fume, the studies do not deny the possible health risk associated with inhaling the VOCs off-gassing from the freshly painted room.

The typical smell of a newly painted room is VOCs off-gassing from the paint. Paint fumes can off-gas for several days from a commercial paint with a high VOC amount even after the paint dries.

So, if you are wondering how long you should wait before sleeping in a freshly painted room when pregnant, here is what Environmental Protection Agency says.

According to the EPA, pregnant women should avoid doing painting jobs and not stay inside a newly painted room. And recommend that pregnant women should avoid the freshly painted room for at least 2-3 days.

A painted room should be ventilated for those initial 2-3 days by keeping windows open and exhaust fans.

But if you are, like me, overprotective (especially when pregnant), I would avoid going and sleeping in a freshly painted room for at least one week depending upon the type of paint used.   

How do you get rid of Paint Fumes in a Room?

Most commercial paints are made of chemicals. And solvents are added to the paint for ease of application and for the paint to stick on a wall after drying. But, unfortunately, it is the solvents off-gassing from the paint to give a strong paint odor. Depending upon the type of paint used, solvents take several days to evaporate from the paint fully, and so is painting odor. 

Here is what you can do to get rid of paint fume lingering in a freshly painted room. 

Proper Ventilation

Proper ventilation is the essential part when you have a freshly painted room. Keep windows and doors open while painting and after painting as much as you can. Only open the doors and windows of a painted room that faces the outside. You want to keep the door close that faces indoor to avoid paint fumes spreading in your entire household. 

Exhaust Fan

Is it Safe to Sleep in a freshly Painted Room when Pregnant-Exhaust fan

Use exhaust fan facing the open window to let the paint fume go outside. Keep exhaust fan on for 2-3 days. Proper ventilation and an exhaust fan will help clear out the paint fumes quickly. 

Avoid Dampness and Humidity

Paint the room when there is sunshine. Dampness and humidity will delay the drying process. The faster the paint dries, the fewer VOCs it off-gas.

Air Purifier

Is it Safe to Sleep in a freshly Painted Room when Pregnant-air purifier

Air purifier must-have when you are pregnant and preparing your nursery or renovating your home. The Austin Air Healthmate Plus is great for heavy VOCs control.

Austin Air Healthmate Plus also has a True HEPA particle filter and composite cartridge filter with activated carbon, zeolite, and potassium iodide. The zeolite is good adsorbent material for paint odor, and with other adsorbents, it will effectively reduce strong odors and VOCs.

Austin Air purifier is also great for keeping the air clean in your house once you have a baby. The HEPA particle filter can remove 99.97% of dust, bacteria, viruses, or anything of 0.3-microparticles.

Vinegar

Place several vinegar-filled bowls in a different part of the freshly painted room. Vinegar will absorb the paint fumes and get rid of the odor.

Baking Soda

You can also place bowls of baking soda instead of vinegar in different parts of a room to absorb paint fumes.

Close leftover Paint Containers Tightly

If you have leftover paint, make sure you close the container tightly and leave it in a garage or backyard to avoid exposure to VOCs leaking from the paint container.

Which types of Paints are Safe to use during Pregnancy? 

If you haven’t started the painting project yet, choose indoor paint with zero VOCs content and natural paint so you can start sleeping in a painted room within 24 hrs.

Zero-VOC paints and natural paints are considered safe to use during pregnancy. However, zero-VOC paint still contains 5 g/l of VOCs, which is significantly less than Low-VOC paint (50g/l VOCs) and conventional paint (up to 150g/l VOCs).

Zero-VOC paints are an excellent option for your painting job, whether you are painting a room or a crib or an old piece of furniture when pregnant.

Even when a room is painted with Zero-VOC paint, it is still wise to ventilate the room for a day before you sleep in that room because you don’t want to take a risk when you are pregnant.

Natural paints are another great option if you want to avoid VOCs altogether. Natural paints are made from natural materials like clay, plant pigment, chalk, casein, citrus, or linseed.

Natural Paint is another great option if you are hesitant to use Zero-VOC paint. Natural paints are formulated from natural materials such as casein, soy oils, citrus, linseed, clay, plant pigments, and chalk. Natural paints are available as recycled paint, milk paint, and plant-based paint. These paints are non-toxic and do not emit VOCs. However, they are tricky to apply, specifically milk paint, so make sure to look for tricks to apply paint on youtube. Natural paints are great for smaller projects like painting cribs or small furniture in a nursery. 

Check out the list of non-toxic paints for painting the nursery and crib here

You should avoid using oil-based paint when pregnant. It contains chemicals that are not safe for fetal development. In addition, oil-based paint contains lead and other chemicals that could expose women to toxic lead levels. Lead is toxic to all body systems and can cause miscarriage, premature birth, and birth defects.

In addition to using non-toxic paints, make sure to keep windows open and use an exhaust fan for several days to clear out paint fumes quickly.  

Is it Bad to Smell Paint Thinner While Pregnant?

Yes, smelling paint thinner while pregnant is very dangerous.

The paint thinners are used for cleaning paint brushes, and they are as toxic and dangerous to health as paint with high VOC content. The paint thinners are petroleum-derived solvents such as Acetone, 2-Butoxyethanol, Dimethylformamide, Mineral turpentine, and toluene.

 Paint thinner evaporates, and vapors can build up in a room with little to no ventilation. Exposure to paint thinner fumes can have a detrimental effect on human health. Depending on the severity of exposure, it can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, confusion, skin, eye, and respiratory system irritation.

Inhaling an excessive amount of paint thinner can affect kidneys and central nervous system and lead to multi-organ failure.

Conclusion

Whether you’re pregnant or not, it’s essential to know the dangers of sleeping in a freshly painted room.

If you’re pregnant, it’s best to avoid sleeping in a freshly painted room until the room is clear from toxic paint fumes. Make sure to open the window, turn on the exhaust fan, use an air purifier for several days before you start sleeping in a painted room. Paint fumes are not suitable for you or your baby, and they can be especially dangerous if you are pregnant.

So, be safe!!

Please let us know if you have any questions regarding the safety of sleeping in a freshly painted room during pregnancy.

References

  1. Larsson M, Hägerhed-Engman L, Sigsgaard T, Janson S, Sundell J, Bornehag CG. Incidence rates of asthma, rhinitis, and eczema symptoms and influential factors in young children in Sweden. Acta Paediatr. 2008 Sep;97(9):1210-5. DOI: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2008.00910.x. PMID: 18624993.
  2. Bailey HD, Metayer C, Milne E, Petridou ET, Infante-Rivard C, Spector LG, Clavel J, Dockerty JD, Zhang L, Armstrong BK, Rudant J, Fritschi L, Amigo A, Hatzipantelis E, Kang AY, Stiakaki E, Schüz J. Home paint exposures and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia: findings from the Childhood Leukemia International Consortium. Cancer Causes Control. 2015 Sep;26(9):1257-70. DOI: 10.1007/s10552-015-0618-0. Epub 2015 Jul 2. PMID: 26134047; PMCID: PMC5257283.
  3. Hjortebjerg D, et al. 2012. Non-occupational exposure to paint fumes during pregnancy and risk of congenital anomalies: a cohort study. Environmental Health 11:54. 
  4. Sorensen M, et al. 2010. Non-occupational exposure to paint fumes during pregnancy and fetal growth in a general population. Environmental Research 110(4): 383-7.

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