Paint is used on the interior and exteriors of
our houses. It is used to change the color and to protect the surface
from sun and water damage. Paint is a mixture of resins, solvents,
additives, and pigments. There are two types of paint depending
on the base liquid. These are oil (oil/alkyd-based) or latex (water
Oil paints are more hazardous than latex paints
due to their petroleum base and require a solvent-like turpentine
to clean up. Latex paint is easier to work with, to clean up (soap
and water), and it is not as harmful to human health and the environment
if handled properly. Oil and latex paints are now made for both
interior and exterior uses.
Older paints may contain harmful heavy metals,
such as lead and mercury. Lead was used as a drying agent and pigment
in oil based paints as well as some latex paints. In 1978, the US
Product Safety Commission reduced the maximum lead content in paint
to only trace amounts (not harmful). Older homes from 1940-1960
may contain paint that has large amounts of lead in it. Mercury
was added to paints (interior and exterior, latex and oil) as a
fungicide to prevent the buildup of mold and mildew on painted surfaces.
Mercury use in paints is now prohibited but many paints are still
around that may contain mercury.
Oil paints give off large amounts of volatile
organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs contribute to air pollution, and
can cause liver and kidney damage after long-term exposure. Oil
paint is flammable, making storage and handling difficult. Latex paint also contains some resins and additives that when applied in a closed room can cause irritation
to the eyes and lungs.
Many of the resins, pigments, and additives are
also toxic to aquatic animals when the paint ends up in the water
Proper recycling and/or disposal of paint lessens harmful impact on our environment and is a better use of resources.
- Store all of your paint in a temperature controlled room. Freezing temperatures can cause paint to go bad.
- Latex paint can be recycled. See the link below for a location or a collection event near you. If none of these options are yet available to you, your latex paint can be dried and thrown in the trash as a last resort. Remember- Do not ever dry oil paint. The VOCs are a source of air pollution.
- Do not dump liquid paint down drains or in the trash.
- Oil paint must be used up or brought to a local Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility or event.
Towns and solid
waste districts hold hazardous waste collection events every year, two per year
at minimum (spring and fall) and many common household hazardous wastes can be
disposed of at these events. For more information and event scheduling, contact
your solid waste district. Find contact information on the solid waste district
contact list page. (Note: If you live in a village, fire district, etc., please
select the town your village, fire district, etc. is in from the list. If your
town is not a member of a district, contact information for your town clerk is
Waste Management Districts contact list
See www.paintcare.org for additional drop off locations.