Mercury in Latex Paints
MERCURY IN LATEX PAINTS
Construction laborers and their families are often exposed to latex (water-based) paints containing unsafe levels of mercury-on the job and at home.
In July 1989, a four-year old boy in Michigan suffered severe mercury poisoning after the inside of his family home was painted with latex paint. The paint contained three times the recommended level of mercury.
Mercury is very toxic if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. The first symptoms may be irritation to the skin, nose, mouth, throat or lungs. Mercury poisoning can also cause weakness, fatigue, lost of sleep, loss of appetite, indigestion, diarrhea, weight loss, sore mouth, loss of memory and tremors.
Chemical companies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned mercury from interior latex paints made after Aug. 20, 1990, but not in paints for exterior use. No paints will be recalled. Stores still may be selling interior paints that contain mercury.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Ask your employer if the paint you are using contains mercury. OSHAS hazard communication regulations require employers to tell you this.They must give you a material safety data sheet (MSDS) that tells what is toxic in the paint and what you can do to protect yourself.Follow all safety precautions recommended by Employer. Read the MSDS and paint label carefully to make sure you are adequately protected.
Always wash your hands and face before smoking, eating or drinking-to prevent swallowing and mercury.
If your contractor does not have the MSDS or will not show it to you, contact your steward before using the paint.
If you have old interior latex paint, read the label to see if it contains mercury. Or, call and ask the paint seller or manufacturer. If there is mercury in the paint, you may want to get rid of it. Be responsible; follow the directions on the label when you dispose of the paint.
Be careful using exterior latex paint. The mercury in it can seriously hurt workers and families. Follow the warnings on the label.
OTHER HAZARDS FROM PAINT
Many Solvents in paints can make you sick.
Some exterior paints contain lead. For more information on lead in paint and the risks to construction, workers, see the Health and Safety Funds health alert, Lead Poisoning.