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Last year I started oil painting, which means (in part) that I use paint thinner for working with and/or cleaning brushes. I recently became concerned about my exposure to the vapor from the paint thinner I use, so I requested a toxicology report from the manufacturer. In the document it specifies that the summated $\mathrm{LC}_{50}$ for the product is 21400 mg$\cdot$ m$^{-3}$.

My (basic) understanding of this is that 50% of test subjects will die with a single exposure at the above level; however, I've really no idea how that translates to "real life" and wonder if someone can shed some light on it.

I'm painting in a reasonably small room (around 3 m x 5 m) with windows open, so I'm essentially trying to determine if this is safe or not, or whether I should be using breathing apparatus and/or move to a different room.

This is a link to the whole document which I received from the manufacturer which contains the substance and other information.

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You are right $\mathrm{LC_{50}}$ is where $50~\%$ of subjects will die. for a room $3~\mathrm{m} \times 3~\mathrm{m} \times 5~\mathrm{m}$ to reach a concentration of $21400~\mathrm{mg/m^3}$ you would have to evaporate $963~\mathrm{g}$ of the material ($3~\mathrm{m} \times 5~\mathrm{m} \times 3~\mathrm{m} \times 21.4 ~\mathrm{g/m^3} = 963~\mathrm{g}$) within a sealed room. Unless your material is very volatile it is unlikely you will even be close to reaching this concentration. That said however it does not mean that this is not a lower concentration that could kill a more susceptible body, nor that the prlonged smell won't make you feel sick. It only says at this concentration you have a $50~\%$ chance of dying if exposed at the concentration for a specified (though in this case we don't know how long) amount of time.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks - that's actually a bit clearer. I've opted for buying a reusable respirator half-mask anyway, just in case - but you're right... the report doesn't really allow for continued exposure and/or other biological factors. I became genuinely concerned that Bob Ross died of Lymphoma and it's been related to chemicals such as these. That being said... he did used to 'beat the devil' out of his brushes which likely caused more of it to be airborne. It's also possible of course, that the chemicals had absolutely nothing to do with it. $\endgroup$ – Simon May 6 '16 at 15:02
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The $\mathrm{LD_{50}}$ and $\mathrm{LC_{50}}$ (lethal dose and lethal concentration) values are measures for acute toxicity as you noted. Long-term exposure is generally not depicted well by these acute toxicity measures. A.K. pointed out, how improbable it is to have a serious risk of acute poisoning. (Also note that the vapour pressure is given as $2~\mathrm{mmHg}$, which is $2.7~\mathrm{mbar}$ in proper units, meaning that evaporation will be very slow at ambient temperature and pressure.)

Chronic toxicity data is typically given as workplace exposure limits, under the reasoning that if you work with something every day and its concentration is less than the harmfulness limit, it should be okay. Scanning your MSDS, I did not come across any such value, so there should be no serious chronic toxicity if you keep your room well vented and don’t forget to recap the bottle, etc.

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