Spray painter

Risk level

A breath of not-so-fresh air

Who is it that paints those flames on cars? Well, it's spray painters, though they are more likely to be found in bodyshops touching up a car's paintwork or even respraying it with a completely new colour. Unfortunately it's not without its risks - chemical substances in the air can cause asthma and the work can also result in hand eczema.

What are the risks?

Car paint and some of the materials used to repair damage contain isocyanates, chemical substances that are released into the air when spraying and sanding down. Isocyanates are highly irritant and can, for example, cause a runny nose, itchy eyes and breathing difficulties even after you’ve left work. Anyone working with isocyanates runs the risk of developing severe asthma and eczema.

The actual painting is preceded by prep work, such as wetsanding surfaces, which can be tough on the skin. Contact eczema can result if you’re not careful, and the skin becomes dry, red and flaky with cracks and blisters that itch.

Prevention and avoidance

Anyone with asthma or any other lung condition should not go into spray painting or any other job that involves isocyanates. A medical examination is done in advance.

Protective equipment is extremely important when working with car paint and other materials that contain isocyanates. Air respirator masks and protective gloves that do not let isocyanates through must be used. Also look after your skin by rubbing a moisturising cream into your hands before work and during breaks.

If you had asthma or eczema when you were little (atopic eczema), you should think carefully before deciding to become a spray painter, as there is a major risk of developing asthma at work, which will mean that you will be unable to carry on with the same duties.

Want to know more?

If you have any questions or want to know more about allergy and eczema when working as a spray painter, get in touch with your school nurse or careers adviser.