Not without Gloves: Lacquer and Paint Thinners

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Lacquer and paint thinners are harsh solvents that should not be handled without the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). This is because these substances, which are used in the construction, automotive, retail and maritime industries, present several health risks when they are not handled safely.

If certain workers use paint and lacquer thinners without gloves, they may experience dermatitis, skin irritation and numbness in the areas that come in in contact with the solvents. With repeated exposure to the chemicals, the side effects become more severe, ranging from liver disease to an increased risk of cancer, as indicated by material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for these solvents.

With these hazards in mind, always consider the following PPE for safe handling of paint and lacquer thinners:

The importance of disposable gloves
Disposable gloves protect workers’ hands while they use paint and lacquer thinners.

Nitrile gloves are perfect for handling these substances because they stand up to the specific chemicals that are typically found in these solvents. This is because they are made from a petroleum-based synthetic material that is designed to provide chemical resistance. According to an MSDS from GC Electronics, its paint thinner contains a mixture of toluene and hydrotreated naphtha – about 40-50 percent of each. Based on these chemicals, the data sheet recommended nitrile gloves for use because the material is resistant to this mixture.

Lacquer thinner, which has a higher solvency than paint thinner and is therefore a harsher substance, often contains chemicals such as methanol and hexane. Nitrile also provides sufficient resistance to these and other ingredients commonly found in lacquer thinners.

Workers should keep in mind the permeation times for each chemical in these solvents in relation to nitrile. For instance, the naphtha in a mixture will not wear down a nitrile glove quickly, but the permeation time could decrease if the solvent contains methyl ethyl ketone, which is not recommended for use with nitrile gloves. This chemical clearly degrades the glove material. Latex gloves are a better option for handling thinners with methyl ethyl ketone but for only a limited duration per glove pair.

Face masks
Paint and lacquer thinners can be used with spray applicators. Also, they are often present in lacquers and paint to thin those coatings for use with a spray applicator. To reduce the inhalation risk, workers should don N-95-rated face masks. These products will prevent individuals from directly inhaling the solvents during the spraying process. It is important to note face masks address the risk of particles from the spray solutions entering the nose and mouth but do not filter vapors. Depending on the compounds being sprayed, a respirator mask is appropriate for more dangerous chemical use.

The importance of on-site testing and glove changes
When selecting PPE for handling any chemical, it is important to conduct on-site testing. This is particularly true of paint and lacquer thinners, as chemical mixtures for these substances vary by manufacturer. Testing allows workers to have a more accurate picture of permeation times and degradation, which provides a better idea of how often workers must change gloves and which material works best based on the task.

The chemical being sprayed will set the tone for the best glove choice. The GlovePlus HD Heavy Duty Nitrile Exam Gloves are the most commonly used gloves for lacquer and paint thinners.

Stay tuned for the next installment in our series, which will cover the best PPE for salons.

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