It is common for many mothers-to-be to go into nesting mode shortly before the birth of their child, especially with the decorating and painting of nurseries. According to several sources, short-term exposure to household paints pose very little risk to the baby. Studies have shown that higher levels of paint exposure for recreational purposes (repeated and frequent sniffing and inhaling) can increase the risk of miscarriage, birth defects and malformations. However, MOST but not ALL chemicals that have proven to be harmful to fetal growth have been eliminated from household paints. The risk of fetal damage from most latex or water based paint fumes are considered low. That being said there has been very little research conducted and scientists have had trouble measuring exactly how low the risks are. The FDA has announced that all paints on the market today do not contain lead and are “probably not dangerous.” All that said - if you want to eliminate the risks entirely… all painting, decorating and chemical exposure of any kind should be avoided at all times. Because...

There are some types of latex paints on the market that contain ethylene ethers and biocides. These types of paints are very harmful and should be avoided entirely.

Lead-based and oil-based paints are extremely harmful to pregnant women and their babies. Prior to the 1970s, many household paints contained lead. Scraping lead-based paints off the walls can produce dust clouds that can be inhaled easily and cause extensive harm to a baby’s development. As many houses are still painted with lead-based paints, it is recommended that women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant avoid stripping old paint altogether.

Pregnant women should also avoid the use of solvent-based paints. Solvent-based paints often contain a plethora of harmful chemicals like xylene, alkanes and white spirit – all of which pose serious health risks. These substances can be responsible for irritating the linings of cells all over the body, nausea, headaches and extensive damage to developing babies. Should your job require you to be exposed to any of the aforementioned chemicals while pregnant, speak to your employer to find a solution to minimize your exposure.

A growing baby is most susceptible to the risks associated with chemical exposure during the first trimester, as this is a major developmental stage for the baby as his or her organs begin to form. If you MUST decorate because you are just too darn excited about it, we recommended that several precautionary measures be taken to prevent harm to the baby:

  • Avoid painting and decorating until after your 14th week. At least.
  • Do not expose yourself to oil-based, lead-based, solvent-based paints at any point. And remember – even some types of latex and water-based paints are harmful!
  • Wear protective clothing. Make sure you wear long sleeved shirts, pants and gloves.
  • Take breaks. Don’t expose yourself to the fumes for extended periods of time, and excuse yourself frequently from the project to get some fresh air.
  • Keep all food and drinks away from the paints (this goes for all chemicals). Even if you aren’t in close proximity to the chemicals for extended periods, they can be absorbed by food and drink and be unknowingly consumed.
  • Make sure your workspace is VERY well ventilated. Fans and open windows are a must.
  • Choose paints that indicate directly on the label that they are suitable for nurseries and children’s rooms. These types of paints often contain far fewer chemicals.
  • Paint and Fertility

    According to several sources, paint fumes from SOME water-based or latex-based paints pose no increased reproductive risk as they have very low volatility.

    However, according to a study conducted in Occupational Enviromental Medicine suggests that paint exposure increases infertility in men. Household paints that contain glycol ethers (found in water-based paints and anti-freeze) and other volatile compounds are responsible for an approximate 250% decrease in sperm motility.

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