How to Choose Your Material: Harmful Substances in Paint

Table of Contents

Did you know VOCs are not the only harmful substance present in paint? To achieve a desired consistency, colour, water resistance etc, paint manufacturers add different solvents and other chemicals to their paint.

In recent years, fewer and fewer harmful additives are present in paint because manufacturers are trying to make their product more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Nonetheless, you are still likely to get into contact with the harmful paint chemicals in various places. Here is a list of the common harmful substances you can find in paint.


VOCs (volatile organic compounds)

VOCs is the abbreviation of ‘volatile organic compounds’. It refers to the organic component in the paint which evaporates after the curing process. They are not a constituent of the cured coating.

After VOCs contaminate the air, they react with oxygen to create ozone, which is harmful to humans upon contact.


Toluene diisocyanate (TDI)

How to Choose Your Material: Harmful Substances in Paint

When the hardener in polyurethane paint undergoes synthesising process, it releases a harmful chemical, TDI.

Free TDI above safety levels will cause harmful effects like allergy and irritation to the human body. Sore eyes, watery eyes, coughing, hyperventilation and asthmatic responses are some of the possible allergic reactions when the body exposed to TDI.



Formaldehyde is a colourless gas with an irritating smell. It is highly volatile and poisonous. A formaldehyde solution with a concentration of about 35% to 40% is called formalin.

This chemical has an even higher toxicity than methylbenzene and dimethylbenzene.


Soluble heavy metal

Heavy metal refers to a metal with a density higher than 4.5g/ m2. Lead, cadmium, chromium and mercury are the common heavy metals that paint contains.

In some paints, the resin, pigment or dryer might contain soluble heavy metals. Prolonged exposure to lead and other heavy metals can cause mild neurasthenia and indigestion. More serious consequences include anaemia and paralysis.



Most paints are constituted of resins, solvents, pigments, dryers and additives.

Ordinary paint’s solvents are usually gasoline. Renovation workers who have painted houses for more than 10 years often experience physical illnesses like coughing, weakness and headaches. Do not underestimate the harmful effects of these paint ingredients.

Share this post:

Related posts: