Exposure to paint fumes while pregnant

We closed on our first house the same week we discovered I was pregnant. Since then, my husband with the help of family members, has been painting the entire house with both latex and oil-based paints. Although I have tried to limit my exposure and remain either outside or in rooms with excellent ventilation and few paint fumes, I am worried about what effect this exposure might have on my baby? I am 6 weeks pregnant.

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

I can understand your concern and of course in a fantasy world somewhere no one would expose themselves to any potential hazardous fumes or drugs or activities... But in reality, most of us do. This is what I could find on the topic.

From M. Paul's "Occupational and Environmental Reproductive Hazards": "Many of the hazardous ingredients found in industrial and art paints have been removed from products intended for household use." Methods of preparation and application differ which may also impact the hazards. Spraying may be more hazardous than brushing.

"No studies have specifically assessed reproductive or developmental health risks associated with painting during home renovation. Inferences must be made from the data on specific constituents of the paints". If the paint was manufactured after 1990, it no longer contains inorganic mercury which is a reproductive hazardous substance.

While organic solvents can be found in all paints, their concentration is considerably less in latex products than in oil based formulations. Daily exposure to such solvents (occupational) has been known to cause an increased risk of miscarriage and sperm defects in male exposure.

Working with the paints and refinishing products is obviously more problematic than being exposed to fumes in a well ventilated area. "Exposure to paints containing ethylene glycol, ethers, mercury or formaldehyde releasing biocides should be avoided."

Another text: "Maternal Fetal Toxicology" by Koren states, "It is unlikely that such a brief low dose exposure will cause any of the conditions that may be associated with occupational exposure throughout pregnancy. Water based paints or latex paints pose no increased reproductive risk because they have low volatility.

I hope that you feel reassured. You seem to be doing all the right things to protect yourself and your baby.

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