Is it Safe to Paint with a Toddler in the House?

When you move into a house, painting the walls is no big deal. Since no one is living in the house, you can get your house painted without any issues.

The challenge arises when you’re already living at home and are wanting to get the walls of the house painted again. This can be either due to the paint being worn of or you wanting a design on the wall.

Wall paint can have a strong odor but it is usually harmless for the average adult. The question however is, is it safe to paint the walls of your house if you have a toddler?

Traditional wall paint contains a variety of toxic chemicals and can have a nasty odor when freshly applied. Since your toddler’s senses are delicate, the fumes emitted by the paint can be toxic for the little one. Also if your toddler comes in contact with the paint, there may be a risk of poisoning if it comes in contact with the mouth. So under normal circumstances, you must avoid painting your house with a toddler at home.

However, there are ways to avoid these harmful effects and paint with your toddler in the house. I’ll discuss it later in this post. Let us now see why exactly it is unsafe to paint with a toddler in the house.

Reasons Why It Is Unsafe To Paint with Toddlers in the House

Traditional paint contains a lot of toxic chemicals which when applied emit volatile organic compounds (VOC)s in the form of harmful fumes. Some of the constituents of these fumes include formaldehyde, glycol, toluene, ethyl acetate among others. You can read more about it here.

Now it is not a given that any time a toddler is in the vicinity of a freshly painted wall, it will suffer from adverse effects of the toxic fumes emitted by the paint. But there is a possibility that inhalation of these fumes can result in some undesirable effects in toddlers.

Since babies have a higher rate of consumption of oxygen when resting as compared to adults, they are more likely to inhale a greater amount of these VOCs. The effects can be respiratory problems as well as developmental and cognitive issues continuing into the growing years.

If your toddler has started crawling or walking, it is a bigger cause of concern for you if you’re painting the walls. Your child may want to play with the paint as it feels different to touch and feel. And from the hands and the feet, the paint can go straight into the mouth! You know how it is with little kids.

That would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it?!

And this risk lurks not only when the painting is going on, but also after the walls have been painted for some days. Paints containing the volatile organic compounds (VOC)s continue to emit toxic fumes days after the walls dry.

Not Only Toddlers Even Adults Are At Risk

I am not talking about the average adult who has exposure to paint only once in 2-3 three years when their house is being painted.

Professional painters who are at constant exposure to the VOC paints are at a high risk of developing respiratory problems in the long term. There are also instances of damage to the liver, kidneys and the nervous system.

Some of the short term effects of constant exposure are headache, dizziness, nausea, eye irritation and breathlessness.

Before you start painting, you need to strip the old paint off. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s office of research and development’s “Total Exposure Assessment Methodology Study”, it was found that levels of organic pollutants indoors are at an average 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors. And while paint stripping before applying fresh paint, the levels of the organic pollutants is expected to rise as much as 1000 times than the outdoor levels at that time!

Though under normal circumstances it might not be wise to paint your house with a toddler at home, there are some conditions under which you can do it. Let us discuss them below.

Precautions to Undertake that Enable You to Paint Your Home

Considering the harmful effects and the toxicity of traditional enamel and oil paints, manufacturers have now come up with a new improved type of paint. These paints are either contain very low VOCs or no VOCs at all. They are also odorless and hence non toxic. Although they cost much more and are not yet mainstream, many families with toddlers are now increasingly using this paint.

However if buying a no VOC paint is out of your budget, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that the risks associated with using traditional paint are considerably used.

  • Stay at a friend or a relative’s house with your children till the painting work is over. It can take 3-4 days for the painting work to finish. But it would be better if you stay out at least a week. Of course you can keep visiting and supervising the work during the day.

If staying away from home is also not possible, you must follow the below mentioned precautions.

  • Avoid painting all the rooms of the house simultaneously. So that while you’re painting one room, your toddler can stay in the other room. Till the paint dries completely make sure that your toddler has no access to the room where the painting is taking place.
  • Keep the paint boxes and buckets out of the reach of your toddler in a secure place.
  • Try to paint the walls when your child is fast asleep in the other room. So even though the paint might emit a strong odour, the child will be oblivious to it.
  • Keep the house well ventilated so that air flows in and out of the house thus reducing the effect of the odor of the paint.

Personally I’d suggest a two pronged approach to take when you want to paint with a toddler at home.

First, use a no-VOC paint that is non toxic and odourless.

Secondly, as far as possible make arrangements to stay at another place while the painting work is going on.

Related Questions

How long should you wait before sleeping in a freshly painted room?

If you’re using a low VOC or a no VOC paint, you can sleep in the room even the same day. There might be a slight lingering smell of the paint especially if it is a low VOC paint.

In case of a regular VOC paint, ideally you must wait 2 days before sleeping in the room as the strong odour will linger on.

How to make the paint odor go away fast?

To make the odor go away faster, there are a few things you can do. Place a bowl of crushed charcoal, lime water, vinegar or baking soda in the painted rooms. In some time you’ll notice a decrease in the smell. And of course not to forget proper ventilation.

Can an air purifier be more effective in removing the odor of the paint?

Most air purifiers in the market today absorb air particles and won’t have the desired effect on the VOCs. To reduce the effects of VOCs faster, you must use a special air purifier that is capable of removing the VOCs.

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