When painting with acrylics, nothing is worse than seeing your beautiful piece interrupted by an unruly toddler or curious pup.
So it’s easy to see why many parents and painters are concerned about the toxicity of their paint supplies.
Can you eat acrylic paint or is it toxic? For me, acrylic paints are poisonous because manufacturers use dangerous pigments/elements to create certain shades that while safe to handle, are not so safe to eat.
Luckily, over my years as a painter, I’ve seen adults and children work with acrylic paints without problems.
Let’s discuss what makes acrylic dangerous, the precautions to take around small children, and how to keep your family safe.
Can You Eat Acrylic Paint?
No, I wouldn’t recommend eating acrylics or any paint, for that matter. Acrylics are plastic-based paints made of pigments suspended in a synthetic polymer emulsion.
It is non-toxic and generally safe to use, but you shouldn’t ingest it because modern acrylic paint pigments contain polymers and resins that can block the digestive tract if swallowed.
Even though acrylic paint is non-toxic and generally safe, some types can cause skin irritation.
To stay safe, I wash my hands thoroughly after working with acrylics and keep them away from my eyes, nose, and mouth.
I also don protective clothing like long sleeves and nitrile gloves when working with acrylic paints for added safety.
What Is Acrylic Paint?
Acrylic paint is a type of plastic-based paint that is typically water-soluble and fast-drying.
It’s made from acrylic resins and pigments, meaning it’s a plastic ground into liquid form.
It also has monomers (molecules) that bind together to create the acrylic polymer that gives the paint durability and semi-permanent qualities.
Though acrylic can contain different ingredients, some standard components are vinyl acetate, propylene glycol, polystyrene, and polyurethane.
I’ve also worked with acrylics that contain additives such as preservatives, fungicides, and biocides.
These usually stabilize the colors and maintain the paint’s consistency.
Before using acrylic colors for my projects, I love checking out the details on each product for any allergy warning label or other precautions just to be sure.
What are the ingredients in acrylic paints?
As its name implies, acrylic paint comprises acrylic resin (a plastic), pigment, water, and other additives.
Acrylic resin makes up the majority of acrylic paints, making them toxic when ingested.
The acrylic resin contains monomers like butyl methacrylate and methyl methacrylate, which can be extremely harmful if swallowed.
They can also cause respiratory irritation, burning, or choking if inhaled.
Some paints may also contain heavy metals like cadmium or lead. These can become even more hazardous if ingested and should be avoided at all costs.
Other additives in acrylic paints
Aside from plasticizers and other potentially toxic substances (often used as additives) being present in acrylic paint, these colors may also contain other ingredients, such as:
- Fillers: used to increase opacity in the paint while still keeping it lightweight to help you create beautiful art.
- Humectants: helps with adhesion by binding together different elements.
- Driers: these ensure acrylic paint dries faster.
- Fixatives: increases the longevity of artwork by creating a permanent bond between pigment and substrate.
In summary, there’s no denying that acrylic paints are very versatile for creative artwork, but you should never use them internally due to their toxicity.
Acrylic Paint Toxicity: Which Components Make Acrylic Paint Toxic?
In trying to answer the question can you eat acrylic paint, or is it toxic? we must understand which acrylic paint ingredients make these colors harmful.
Solvents and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
The solvents used in acrylic paint give off VOCs when they evaporate. For example, xylene, a type of solvent used in paint, can cause headaches and confusion if someone is exposed to high levels of it.
Additionally, VOCs like this are considered pollutants and contribute to air pollution.
The pigment in acrylic paints can vary depending on the manufacturer. Some are synthetic or semi-synthetic pigments; made from chemicals that could be toxic if ingested.
Other pigments are considered non-toxic and safe for children, but these usually have a lower concentration of colorant than other paints do.
As such, they aren’t as bright or vibrant as the more toxic pigments. So can you eat acrylic paint particles?
Although some brands make non-toxic acrylic paint that isn’t harmful if accidentally ingested, I choose to err on the safe side, never eating any paints or similar compounds.
Can You Eat Acrylic Paint Or Is It Toxic?
No, acrylic paint is not toxic due to its low toxicity rating (as compared with oil-based paints).
Acrylics are non-toxic and non-flammable, but they contain a small quantity of solvent that evaporates quickly after drying.
The most common solvents in acrylics are methylene chloride, xylene, and toluene.
Some solvents, such as ethyl acetate, amyl acetate, and benzene, are more volatile than others.
These solvents have been linked with certain health concerns if inhaled over time (i.e., allergies).
However, they pose no risk if you use them correctly in an art setting (i.e., in a studio).
Acrylic Paint Poisoning Symptoms: What Are the Effects of Eating Acrylic Paint?
As I already mentioned, acrylic paint is not something you should snack on. But what happens if you accidentally ingest a little bit of paint?
While they’re designed to be used on surfaces and not in your body, the toxicity of acrylic is relatively low.
Eating it will likely not cause any long-term health problems. However, if you have ingested any significant amount of paint, it is crucial to seek medical advice immediately.
The main worry is that acrylic paint contains compounds known as polymers and can be hazardous if swallowed.
Ingesting large amounts can lead to severe sickness, but even a small amount of acrylic paint that enters your system can lead to some symptoms.
Symptoms of Acrylic Paint poisoning
If you suspect you may have accidentally ingested some acrylic paint, be on the lookout for these symptoms:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Irritation or burning sensation in your mouth, throat, or stomach
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Flushing of the skin or rash
While eating acrylics is not okay, doing so will likely not have any long-term health implications if you seek immediate help.
Treatment will likely involve drinking plenty of fluids, taking charcoal tablets, or receiving intravenous fluids to flush out the consumed paint from your system.
Treatment for Acrylic Paint Poisoning.
Treatment for consuming acrylic paint will depend on the amount you’ve consumed and the type of paint ingested:
- Mild cases
If the amount consumed was small and no symptoms were observed, an intestinal lavage (stomach pump) may not be necessary.
Instead, the victim should drink lots of water to help flush out any remaining particles from the stomach, with monitoring to ensure all particles have been removed.
- Severe cases
For more severe cases where the victim has consumed a large amount of paint, doctors will use a lavage to remove excess paint from the stomach before treatment with medications or other therapies begins.
Treatment for any medical conditions caused by ingestion is necessary.
Are Acrylic Paints Safe for Kids
In my opinion, even though acrylic paint is non-toxic and safe to use for kids, it’s still not okay to ingest it.
When painting with kids, I insist on protective equipment like masks and gloves to protect them from harmful fumes or particles.
I also prefer working in a well-ventilated space to minimize the risk of inhaling hazardous chemicals in acrylic paints, like formaldehyde or ammonia.
Call emergency services or contact poison control immediately if your child swallows acrylic paint.
Acrylic paint safety tips for kids
Ingesting any paint can cause severe damage to your digestive system and lead to poisoning.
Here are some safety tips when using acrylic paint with kids:
- Always keep paints away from food and drinks.
- Use non-toxic acrylic paint in well-ventilated areas or outdoors if possible.
- Wear old clothes that you don’t mind getting messy with paint.
- Place paper towels or a drop cloth on the floor to protect it from accidental spills or splatters.
- Keep a wet rag handy while painting if anyone needs to quickly clean their hands or face off after being exposed to the paint.
- Remind everyone not to put their fingers in their mouth while painting, and remind them that paint is not to be consumed.
Is Acrylic Safe for Skin Painting?
While I have witnessed many body painting artists play with acrylics, using these paints directly on your skin is not okay.
Remember, acrylics are not designed for cosmetic use and may contain harmful ingredients.
Some experts advise using it on the skin only after proper protection.
There are a few other things to note when using acrylics on your skin.
- The paint is not completely nontoxic and may irritate the skin.
- Acrylic paints harden as they dry. Dried paint can cause discomfort.
- The paint’s scent may be a threat to respiratory health.
- Acrylics crack and may ruin your body paint.
If you do decide to use acrylic paint for body painting, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Perform an allergy test first. Always test any paints or products meant for the skin before applying them to your body to avoid allergic reactions.
- Choose non-toxic and hypoallergenic paints. I prefer acrylics formulated explicitly for cosmetic use for skin and hand painting. These are safer options than non-cosmetic-grade products. But still, I start with an allergy test.
- Clean up with care. For best results, remove all traces of paint from the skin with water and soap instead of chemical cleaners so as not to irritate or dry out the skin.
Although using acrylic paint directly on the skin is generally discouraged, that doesn’t mean you can’t paint yourself with body art– remember to take extra precautions.
And always check with a doctor if you’re unsure or experience any irritation or other symptoms during/after your painting endeavors.
Is Acrylic Safe for Baby Hand Prints?
Generally speaking, acrylic paint is not safe for children to put their hands into and then lick, as it can contain chemicals that may be harmful if ingested.
Acrylic paint is considered non-toxic, but this only applies to the small quantities ingested from normal painting activities.
I prefer acrylic activity paint with the ASTM D4236 label for baby hand prints the standard mark for non-toxic art material.
These are the best for baby imprints and I don’t mind my son touching them with bare hands.
I supervise my little ones for extra safety so they don’t eat or drink the paint.
How Can You Safely Use, Store & Dispose of Acrylic Paint?
Ultimately, we must remember that most acrylic paints are chemical-based, meaning some types can cause serious harm when ingested.
Even though it’s not technically toxic, it’s essential to employ proper storage and safety measures to prevent potential accidents.
Here are a few tips for safely using and storing acrylic paint:
- Keep paint away from children and pets; store it in a well-ventilated area.
- Always put the lids back on after using acrylic paints.
- Wash hands thoroughly after painting with acrylics.
- Keep away from food items, or cover any surfaces with plastic wrap.
- When disposing unused paint, do not dump it into drains or sewers; if possible, bring it to a local hazardous waste collection site for disposal.
- If you need to dispose of large quantities of acrylic paints, contact your local county government for disposal options.
How to dispose of acrylic paints
Before disposing acrylic paints, I recommend checking the acrylic paint for disposal instructions. The type of paint and how water- or solvent-based it is can affect its toxicity.
As a rule of thumb, water-soluble colors are safer than oil paints or alkyd-based ones but are still hazardous since they contain harmful heavy metals in their pigments.
The best way to dispose of acrylic paint is by taking it to a hazardous waste facility.
These facilities have the proper infrastructure and containers to safely dispose of liquid materials like paint.
If you’re feeling extra eco-friendly, like me, consider repurposing any leftover paint by donating it to local charity thrift stores or DIY-friendly organizations.
That way, someone else can put your unwanted paint to good use.
Does Acrylic Paint Produce Toxic Fumes When Heated?
Yes. Toxic acrylic paint can release poisonous fumes when heated. This applies to any solvent-based paint, not just acrylics.
You want to work in a well-ventilated area and wear a respirator mask when using heat guns or torches, as these tools can produce fumes at temperatures as low as 250°F (121°C).
VOCs can make acrylic paints toxic
If heated, acrylics can release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are known to be harmful to humans.
Symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea come with long-term exposure, and VOCs can cause even more severe health problems, such as liver and kidney damage, when absorbed through the skin or inhaled.
Lower the temperature when possible
Whenever possible, lower the temperature of your heat gun or torch to minimize the amount of toxic fumes released from acrylic paints.
When using heat guns, I also use fans to help circulate outdoor air into my workspace for better ventilation. This helps dissipate fumes before they reach dangerous levels.
Alternatives to Acrylic Paints
Alternatives are available if you’re unsure about acrylic paint and its toxicity. Below are some good alternatives to acrylic paint that you can use:
- Natural Paints: A range of eco-friendly paints on the market is made from natural ingredients such as plant oils and clay. These options provide the same vibrant colors and finish as acrylic paint but with reduced toxicity.
- Watercolor: Watercolors are a great option if you’re looking for something a little softer than acrylics. It is an easy medium to use since you don’t have to use toxic cleaning chemicals afterward, and they make stunning pieces when used correctly.
- Gouache Paints: Gouache paints are also water-soluble but tend to be more opaque than watercolors. This makes them perfect for creating illustrations and other graphic designs. They dry fast, so they don’t need to be sealed before framing.
- Tempera Paints: This type of paint features pigments bound together in either egg yolk or synthetic water-based mediums such as glycerin or oil. It’s known for its vibrant colors and smooth finish, but it’s not recommended if you plan on varnishing a piece after completion, as it may adversely affect the painting’s appearance.
These alternatives to acrylic paints provide great results without the potential risk associated with traditional acrylic paints, so these are the best ways to go if you’re looking for an unsafe-to-eat alternative.
Can acrylic paint lead to cancer?
While eating acrylic paint or inhaling its fumes is not advisable, its risk of causing cancer is generally low. The US Environmental Protection Agency has determined that although consuming acrylic paint has potential health effects, these products do not cause cancer. Acrylics may contain heavy metals like cadmium, and chromium, but in low concentrations that they pose a minimal cancer risk.
Is acrylic paint harmful to pets?
No, small amounts of ingested acrylic paint aren’t toxic to cats or dogs. Even if your pet takes a lick of the wet paint, it should be okay. But because pets risk inhaling or ingesting large amounts of acrylic paint, I recommend keeping them away from my painting zones. I also wash off leakages and dispose of excess paint properly to protect my pets.
Can you die from eating paint?
The short answer is no, but it depends on the amount and type of paint you eat. Eating a small amount of toxic acrylic paint could cause an allergic reaction in your stomach and trigger vomiting. However, consuming enough to upset your stomach could cause nausea, diarrhoea. and vomiting, and lead to dehydration. This can be fatal if not treated properly.
What happens if you drink paint water?
You’ll probably get sick. Drinking paint water isn’t a severe health risk because it’s mostly water, but it will make you feel bad for a while. You should never drink any liquid from any plastic or vinyl material because it contains harmful chemicals that can damage your body over time.
What happens if you eat paint?
If you eat paint, things will get uncomfortable for about an hour or so afterward until you’ve excreted all of it from your body. If you do not eliminate the ingested paint, your condition will worsen because the toxins can build up inside your body and cause serious health problems.
Does acrylic paint have lead?
Yes, some acrylic paints contain lead. Manufacturers add it as a pigment for stability. If ingested or inhaled, lead/cadmium can cause severe health problems. It can also cause skin and eye irritation in some people. Always read the label when purchasing paint; better yet, ask your professional artist for advice on what paints may be safe for use at home.
Is acrylic paint safe?
Yes, acrylic paints are safe as long as you use them correctly. Never ingest paint or inhale their fumes. Avoid applying acrylic paints on your skin, as some can irritate. Also, keep your pets away from your pets, and work in a well-ventilated area, away from heat sources.
Is acrylic paint bad for the environment?
Yes, acrylic paint is bad for the environment because it contains toxic chemicals like toluene, xylene, styrene monomers, etc., that aren’t eco-friendly. When released into soil or water, these harmful chemicals may affect living things such as plants and animals.
Is Liquitex acrylic paint non-toxic?
Yes. These paints contain the ASTM D4236-approved product label, which means they have been tested and approved in the United States. Generally, art materials with this label are considered perfectly safe and non-toxic.
In conclusion, the old adage “don’t put it in your mouth” holds true regarding acrylic paints.
Acrylic paint contains a mixture of pigments, binders, and additives and can harm your health if ingested.
While some elements in acrylic paint are harmless, some can be toxic if ingested.
Therefore, if you are a painter, it’s essential to practice safe painting habits, keep your paints away from children, and remind everyone in the household to never eat or drink anything near your painting projects – especially not the paint itself.
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